Escape from Momcatraz
Escaping from. Escaping to. Escaping nothing.
I ran away.
Last month, before the COVID scare, the deadly wildfires, the smoke-filled week of air quality so hazardous we couldn't even step outside - I ran away. I don't know why.
I had been relieved of my hands-on-Mom days when MotherMinder arrived Saturday afternoon. I immediately descended the stairs to our cozy dungeon in anticipation of a relaxing time off. I had a pleasant Sunday; took a long walk with a friend, cuddled up to The Boyfriend in the Basement for our current can't-miss fav show (Lovecraft Country - so much fun!), did all the things that would warrant a continuation of pleasure on my remaining days of freedom.
I woke up on Monday to such deep despair I couldn't get out of bed. My body chained to the dankest, darkest black of hopelessness my brain could conjure. The Boyfriend in the Basement finally flung off the covers and pulled me to my feet at two in the afternoon.
A half-hour later I was sobbing uncontrollably in the shower, my attempt to wash away the anguish failing. My mind rejected fight, choosing instead to careen headlong into the hysteria of flight.
A jailbreak ensued.
I called The Other Girl - she cleared her coastal home out so I could have a couple of days alone. I made sure MotherMinder and The Boyfriend in the Basement were comfortable with my exodus. As I had the wild eyes of a mad man during my plea for freedom I'm guessing they felt they, and Mom, were safer if I was out of the house. They promptly pronounced their verdict: "GO!"
I threw socks, underwear, and Mr. Bones in the car and escaped, flying down the freeway through the haze of tear-filled eyes, desperately seeking asylum. Once I hit the rolling fields and lush greenery of the mountain pass I began to breathe easier, my eyes drying up, my heartbeat slowing its frantic pace.
I ignored my head. It was still thick-black in the pointlessness of my caregiving life. I was too raw to ponder its harsh judgement. Instead I locked it up and secured the bolts with the majestic beauty of the forest.
I spent two days in coastal solitary confinement. Venturing forth for food, a walk on the beach, then returning to that tiny house, wrapping myself in it like a strait-jacket, keeping my ugliness at bay with books and TV bingeing.
Then I went home.
I am not a great caregiver. Caregiving is not second nature to me. Or third, or eleventh, or even fiftieth. I manage to be a loving caregiver to my mother only because we have a caregiving team - because The Other Girl, MotherMinder and I share the load.
And even with all that support, all that respite, all that weekly reprieve from dementia, I cannot escape caregiver burnout, because I cannot escape dementia.
I still do not know what precipitated this massive meltdown. And because it came at me with a vigilante's sense of vengeance my days now carry an underlying victim's fear of its sudden, devastating return. It's was a harrowing experience which I have not been able to completely shake.
But what I do know is this...
I have punched dementia in the face throughout this journey, and in turn have borne the blows it has rained down on me while trying to shield Mom from its persecution.
I will continue to do so until it's time for her to escape. But I suspect The Other Girl, myself, and our village of friends and family who have loved and supported her will carry this sentence far into our own futures before we are freed.
I cannot escape dementia.