The Last Road Trip

14 12 2014

Her voice was raised and excited, words were running together she spoke so fast, but that didn’t matter. The message she was conveying was the most important matter on earth and we had to address it immediately. She said it over and oRock _nver again; “We have to go, we have to go!” This was a phone call I received 10 years ago and the subject matter a trip she felt we had to take. Over the course of our lives together I had seen her often “over the top” in expressing attitude and emotion on almost every subject under the sun, but now that dementia had invaded her life anything, or nothing could send her into a tailspin of panic.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, the person I’m talking about is my mother; and if you don’t understand dementia, it’s defined as “a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning.” So because of all this, I seldom took her fits of urgency and distress very seriously, after all there wasn’t much I could do about a situation that occurred twenty years before I was born, but at that moment it was as real as if it had just happened. But this emotional 5 alarm fire rang a different tone than the usual ones she brought to me. There was this need in her, this urgency to see people she had associated with in years past in a place she hadn’t visited in just as long; she wanted to go home to West Virginia. We sat down and talked so I could get a handle on what she was thinking and why. For years she had no desire to return to her place of birth, or see any of the extended family of her childhood; she felt content living out her days near me and my family. But I believe people with dementia have moments of sober thinking if you will, where thoughts, people and places become clear. In mom’s case, she was having moments of remembering a place and a people that were once very dear to her, from that developed this desire to go, one more time, while she was still able to have them in her memory. I explained to her it wasn’t the best time for me to be taking off work and we would have to wait until later. The look on her face was that of a child you had just dropped the big bomb on that Santa Claus didn’t exist. Her voice was a little weak when she said, “I have to see them, I’ve got to know something.” “What’s that Ma?” “I have to know if they still remember me and like me.” So much for any argument I had; “Pack your extra knickers Ma, we’s headed down home!”

All of you that have taken vacations with small children in the car can relate to how frustrating it can be with the “Are we there yet, I’m hungry, are we there yet, I gotta go to the bathroom, are we there yet, I don’t feel good and, oh yeah, are we there yet?!!” Well traveling with an individual stricken with dementia can be just the same and even worse. By the time we reached our destination, my nerves were ragged and I had a tension headache that would have killed a bull elephant and I was beginning to wonder if this had been a terrible idea from the start. What was everyone going to think when they saw her and the condition she now possessed, well it is what it is and time will would have to tell.

I had written mom’s cousins telling them of our intent and asking if they would meet with her when we arrived. Two that were closest to mom’s age where the first to arrive. Leaving them alone in mom’s hotel room to talk, I retreated to my room praying everything would go okay. After an hour or so we all went to lunch and had pleasant conversation with mom trying to listen as much as she could smiling the whole time. (She suffered all her life from hearing loss and now the dementia was making it worse.) The next day three other younger cousins got together with us over lunch and for two hours the laughter and silliness ran unbridled, and mom smiled a lot.  After that we went to another relative’s home and he pulled out old picture albums from their younger days, and mom’s smile lit up the room. On our final day, we drove the roads that took us back to her childhood hometown of Mullins and mom’s memory was as sharp as a tack for the next few hours, and I smiled as I listened to her wonderful memories.

Someone said, “Life brings tears, smiles and memories. The tears dry, the smiles fade, but the memories last forever!”  Had I denied my mom the opportunity to live memories, good memories once again for a short moment, it would have robbed her of life she so desperately needed during those days of confusion that were closing in around her. She needed to relive just a little of a life of innocence, laughter and happiness that she once possessed and cherished so dearly. I think it did as much for me to be a part of that moment. I think it was God’s way of saying to this man, “I gave you special people in your life, as well as places and moments for a reason, which is to experience the happiness I want for each of you, here and with Me someday in heaven, that is if you’re willing to accept it in the love in which it is given.”  Looking at it that way rules out any inconvenience I might have felt taking a road trip with an unruly elderly woman-child.

We pointed the car north and headed home with mom talking about all that took place, but now once again confusing recent happenings with ones from the past. Didn’t matter though, she was happier than a child coming from a birthday party!  Occasionally as we drove on mom would roll down her window as I passed a semi and pump her fist up and down trying to get some them to blow their big air horn. First thought, “What are people thinking seeing this grown woman pulling this stunt?”  Then the second thought, “Look at the smile on her face! I am so glad God allowed me to Travel the Rock Road with this dear soul!”  Oh, what the heck? The next truck we passed we both rolled down the windows and pumped our fist.  “Hey, play that loud horn, big boy!” “HONK HONK!”  We got one, Awesome!!!
See ya next time.




One response

15 12 2014

Beautiful John !!

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