Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Guest Columnist: Running Out Of Time, Caregiver, Mi'Ja

Editor's Note: La Bloga welcomes guest columnists. Today's guest writer, San Diego artist Nicki De Necochea, continues La Bloga's explorations (link) of Memory, loss, and health. De Necochea writes out of personal experience. Families similarly stricken recognize the universality of such experiences. La Bloga welcomes questions, observations, personal stories. Use the "Post A Comment" link below.

We’re running out of time together.  

Nicki De Necochea 

We’re running out of time together.  

92 birthdays in and she has no idea that we’re running out of time.  My mother, perhaps the fortunate one, has no idea of loss, nor of her full scope of living, which her brain once processed for her, as naturally as breathing.  Her brain can no longer be relied upon.   

This exacting mechanism that allowed her instantaneous recall as easily as if pulling a book out of a bookcase has a corrupted hard drive, like a cranial computer in a state of crashing.  There are so many little things (and bigger more important things) she no longer grasps, sorts through, makes sense of.   The heartbreaking loss of everyday brain functions that we all take for granted, is not fathomable nor worrisome to her.   No cognition means no ability to grasp loss. 

This brain thief, Alzheimer’s, persistently invading her ability to be whole, wreaks losses that rob the whole family.  Each year, my mother and I face with lament how this disease leaves her with fewer physical and mental skills. Skills like talking on the telephone, picking a good apple in the produce section, handwriting as basic as signing her name, reading or even watching a television program with full awareness, now vanished. She doesn’t lament their loss. She no longer recalls these as part of everyday living skills.  

My mother’s brain power once gave her ability to remember countless phone numbers.  As recent as six years ago, she could walk up to an ATM and punch in her pin number. She could remember her social security number.   The family are the ones left to catalogue what she can no longer remember or do.   She has an unwelcome freedom from looking for things she has misplaced, of fretting over what she cannot recall. 

We’re running out of time together, and losing her completely is so very near.  The signs are physical too.  Her lovely strong, and some years ago robust frame is thinning. Absent muscle mass has gone for good.  

Most dear is her current solid awareness of love, and her ability to feel gratitude and connection.  The “I love you mija.”  “Thank you mija." "You’re a good girl, mija.” She still expresses her ability to love. Her brain still gives her permission to feel, to say. These will one day be buried, or too tangled with no outlet in those disintegrating brain synapses.   

My coping skills as her daughter (labeled caregiver by a society that has trouble grasping the strength of our cultura and the genetic obligation of our love), take form as resolute patience, loving appreciation for who she is, and foremost, Gratitude, from Spanish, apreciar. I am my mother’s daughter, and I am grateful for all this means. 

Being loving is still her forte.  She reaches out to me, to be a mother by finding my arm and caresses it as if trying to warm and comfort, or perhaps healing like a naturalist healer, a sobadora. Gratitude abounds when I focus on the things she still has, and still is.  The hugs, and affectionate kisses when I grab on for a gentle rock, a hug, or a dance in place. Her love of ice cream, and candy, and ability to delight in them, with a gracious thank you to boot--always offering me a bite of what she is eating, generous to a fault.   Grateful for her enjoyment of music, showing her delight by tapping her hand on her leg in time with the beats.  

My mother doesn’t remember my name, but knows who I am. I am her mi’ja.

I remind myself, we are running out of time together, and acknowledge that now is now.   I find the patience to just let her do, as long as she wants, because doing something is what’s left to her of her “mother” skills, not yet gone.

I lament all the subtle changes in her in the last six years; all forfeitures, the gains are almost nonexistent.  Capacities fall away, dependencies inch in and take over more of my time leaving her with even less.   The odd behaviors that seemed frustrating when they started are now missed when she can no longer do them.   The annoyances, like her need to pack and empty her dresser drawers almost daily became something I finally acknowledged as an activity that kept her focused on a task, and I let go of thinking of it as a negative I’d just let her do it, because she could.   She no longer does that, and I miss her mischief.   

Still verbal, somedays she makes some incredible, wise astounding statements.   She has given me surprising advice, and insights as if some extraordinary force possessed her for a few minutes to give her moments of lucid wisdom.   Other times less so, like she’s channeling and speaking for someone else and the messages are in code 

So, as my viejita turns 92 the Annie Lennox song is in my head rings true more often, these days, “No More I Love Yous.”  It’s the soundtrack of my dread and fear of the day when there are none of those left for her to share, because we’ve run out of time.   

There’s still a place for lots of joy, laughter and gratitude in our lives. She is so very sweet, and affectionate.   She says I love you and thank you often, such simple human courtesy that many don’t say often enough. I can still make her laugh, and help her feel joy with music or affection and silly talk.   

My favorite thing she still does when hugging me is when she says, “you’re beautiful mija”.  My mother not only is communicating, expressing her love, but she knows at moment who I am to her.  Gratitude; I take nothing for granted.  

B. Nicki De Necochea is a So Cal artist, residing in San Diego who embraces her art and writing as a form of creative self-expression.   She is a painter in oils, acrylic and mixed media.   Her writing addresses personal themes and experiences as another vehicle for using art for growth, human awareness, and for her own self-discovery.

1 comment:

Marco999 said...

Nicki, my heart goes out to you, Mom, and family. Keep the faith, day by day. I went through those trials and tribulations until my mother passed away at 93. --Marco