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Community Care Full Circle

Case for My Grandpa’s Missing Tools

Yesterday, I received a telephone call from my mother’s landlady. She told me that MAG gave her another letter (my mother is infamous for writing very, very, very lengthy letters), requesting a work order to fix her front door lock (it was recently replaced) and that someone has broken into her apartment – again! This time, her father’s tools were stolen. After getting off the phone with her landlady, I called MAG and she told me the entire story, including that she had been crying all day because these tools are very sentimental to her. As usual, I tried to reason with her, but I need to realize that this doesn’t help her – this is her truth. Also, it doesn’t help my stress and frustration levels. My husband suggested we go look for the missing tools (We have done this before – Case of the Missing Jewels). We arrived and started rummaging through her things. It didn’t take long for one of us to find the tools, nicely wrapped and hidden in one of many boxes residing in her small apartment. I showed her the evidence and she said, “Where did you find them? I have been looking for them for five days!” Faced with the evidence in hand, I forced her to acknowledge that there are no thieves, but that she is experiencing short-term memory loss, hiding her things because she thinks people are breaking in, and then forgetting where she puts them. Her spirit broke and mine withered. While her social worker has told me not to confront her on her delusions, I am tired of entertaining them, as they are too taxing on all involved.

Often times, my husband ends up playing bad cop. While I don’t always agree with him, his role sometimes serves a purpose. Unfortunately, he remains convinced that he can speak sense into her. He indicated to MAG that if she doesn’t stop blaming other tenants for breaking into her home and stealing things (essentially, calling them liars), it is going to end in one way – with her going into a home. My mother, a rebel consistently with a cause, placed a finger gun to her head while grabbing air in a specific area said, “Don’t ever put me in a home, I will shoot myself and I have the *cajones to do it!” MAG is quite the character and has always caused a reaction, but her antics have worn thin with us, especially when our eight-year-old daughter is sitting on the couch and I have to reassure her later on that her grandma is not going to kill herself. Far worse, is that my mother can no longer make the connection that it is truly insensitive to put suicide on the table, when we both lived through the pain and suffering caused by my brother taking his own life.

While my mother thinks her landlady is against her, I believe she has been more than fair to her. Once we solved the case of the missing tools, I called her landlady and asked, once again, for compassion for my mother, who is experiencing dementia. I told her that my husband will fix the lock (He tightened the base and we both assured MAG that it is normal for the lever to work freely) and next week, I will help her get rid of some of her stuff (again) and organize and label the remaining items for easier accessibility. This is not the first time I have walked MAG’s landlady off the ledge and with MAG’s lack of memory, I will probably have to do it again – but it is what I do.

For now, I honor my mother’s plea for autonomy, but I balance her wants with the safety of her needs. There will come a time when I must allow MAG’s social worker to place her on the waiting list for assisted living. Being a parent has prepared me for this; I can’t always be a friend.

Where I find myself now is what troubles my soul – encountering the confusion and sadness found in my mother’s eyes – her soul is lost within a vessel that is nearing its end, driven by a mind that is waning.