What did you get your mother for Mother's Day? We got ours torture.
In Dementialand, you never know if this year will be the last year you spend with your care partner. Will this be the last Thanksgiving turkey you'll lovingly prepare for your dementia person? Or the last Christmas present you'll choose with the utmost care and bestow with all your heart? Or the last Mother's Day you'll have to destroy their fragile psyche and make their life a living hell? You just never know, so you really make the most of these special days because next year it may only be memories you get to celebrate. The Other Girl and I weren't aware that our choice of Mother's Day experiences were going to elevate our gift giving to such lofty heights of suffering and torment for Mom this year... I guess we just got lucky.
My sister's torture of choice was a Mother-Daughter Spa Day in a luxurious establishment. It was warm and relaxing, with soothing scents and music enveloping the two of them as they prepared for a day of gentle full body massages, refreshing facials, and a tranquil, stress-reducing sauna. Well, one of them prepared. One of them wanted nothing to do with it.
Distress was accomplished right off the bat as The Other Girl struggled to find a way to get Mom to lay down on the massage table, face down in the donut. The concept couldn’t have been more foreign and confusing to Mom, so she clothed herself in the impenetrable armor of a persecution complex until The Other Girl finally gave up, opting to tenderly suggest that Mom lay on her back and enjoy her massage in a less traditional repose. This apparently worked right up until my sister began to doze, deeply immersed in the relaxation of her massage.
"I gotta get out of here!" abruptly yanked The Other Girl from her dreamy reverie to see Mom sitting straight up on the massage table, towel flung aside, and a somewhat startled masseuse next to her, perplexed about how to proceed.
This performance was repeated throughout the remainder of the massage, and into the other already purchased services as well with the facial being resisted as agonizing, and the sauna being rejected as an excruciating tribulation: the woman who is always too cold was finally, for once, too hot.
At the end of this vile day of affliction I received a one-sentence text from The Other Girl:
"Next year she's getting a card..."
When my sister relayed the details of her thoughtless gift of a spa day of HORROR! - I was crushed, there was no way I could achieve that level of misery. And it wasn't like I wasn't trying; being the despicable daughter that I am, I had purchased a Mother-Daughter Foot Massage session to soothe her achy legs and feet. I know, contemptible, right? But as Mom gets pedicures all the time, and she enjoys those, a gentle foot massage (practically the same thing), was sure to bring pleasure not pain. Plus, it's much shorter in duration then a full-day spa experience, only 1/2 hour to be exact (because while I love my mother as much as my sister does, I am cheap poor). I guess I just hadn't thought things through in the initial gift giving planning stages, thus allowing The Other Girl to clearly one up me again and further cement her ability to do everything better than me. <sigh>
So with a heavy heart I took Mom to her Mother's Day appointment, knowing she would be beside herself with pleasure. But wait... what's this?
Mom balked at the house-converted-to-quaint-business entrance. She didn't want to go in.
Once inside, Mom paced back and forth between the cozy, inviting and warm, scent-filled rooms looking for an exit. The two lovely young ladies who would be performing our massages kept trying to engage her in soothing, kind voices. She was way too cagey to be ensnared by such paltry attempts at conversation. Her pacing continued.
When they escorted us to the side-by-side spa chairs, Mom refused to sit down. She was so adamant that she WOULD NOT be participating in this travesty, she wouldn't look at any of us, or acknowledge our gentle coaxing, preferring to continue her search for an escape.
I was stunned and embarrassed. I took her out to the front porch and attempted to reason with her. She was resolute in her refusal to participate. And then I did it, I heard myself sputter with anger...
"If you don't do this with me, I am going to be pissed off all day. Is that what you want?"
I was a horrific, self-centered teenager the last time I used that tone of voice and such angry words with my mother. Her eyes registered shock at this, but did I also detect a gleam of victory? She had succeeded in frustrating me as much as she was frustrated with the situation, and a smug acceptance settled over her visage. She followed me back in, begrudgingly allowing the foot massages to happen, making sure her tortured air of martyrdom seeped into every nook and cranny, suffocating all in the room.
I believe The Other Girl and I finished this holiday, in homage to the woman we love best, in a solid tie; we had successfully, if inadvertently, tormented Mom to the fullest.
As a dementia care giver, you know there are tasks you have to make your care partner do ("Mom, time for your concentration camp shower!"), and there will be a bit of drama, resistance, and occasionally tears ("Oh, did the poison go in your eyes?"), but you do your best to perform them quickly and with as little discomfort as possible. Then there are the times when you are completely blindsided that something you thought sure to be pleasurable is met with such despair and anguish.
So if we get another Mother's Day with her, I'm not sure how we'll top this one. Crucifixion? Skin her alive? I dunno. I already know what card I'm going to get her to accompany whatever activity I'm making her suffer through: