When I posted just a few brief words the other day, hoping that more posts would follow that action, Jacqi kindly commented that blogs are just a conversation and that my blog can be whatever I want it to be. Thanks, Jacqi.
If blogging is a conversation, it remains one-sided unless you read it and engage with it in some way. If you engage with my words, I think it does become a conversation, even if you don’t comment. If you leave a comment, there is some proof of our conversation. Feel free.
I had a conversation with myself in the shower this morning and thought I would share it with you. It was prompted by this photograph.
My sister posted it on Facebook yesterday as it was apparently National Siblings Day – a day none of us knew existed prior to the invention of Facebook. Her sharing the photo prompted some conversation among the siblings in the picture as well as a few of our friends and relatives. I’m the oldest kid and all of our names begin with K. Let’s just call us K1 (me), K2, K3, and K4. The picture was shared by K2, who is missing a few teeth. This prompted K3 (on the right) to crop just the gap-toothed one, repost it as a comment, and LOL. K4 (the baby) laughed at our hair – three of us with basically the same “do” – a 60s flip. Several of K2’s friends commented on how much K2 looks like our mother. I added helpfully that if you hold your cursor over mother’s mouth, you can see the likeness even more clearly. Go ahead – try it!
This picture was taken when I was in high school in Corsicana, Texas, probably for a church directory. My other comments on the Facebook post were that our mom is so pretty and my sisters adorable. Also that I look a lot like our dad in this photo. This is funny, because he is my step-dad. I recalled that around that time, someone had commented to dad and me about how much I looked like him. We just smiled at each other and let it be our little secret.
In the shower this morning, I was thinking about these comments, about our beautiful, loving mom and my heroic dad. Mom’s brain has been taken over by Alzheimer’s dementia. The disease has taken most of her memories and has turned a loving, compassionate, fun and creative woman into someone who can be mean and fearful. Everyone knows it is the disease talking, but that doesn’t make it easier to experience. I’m sheltered from this because I live so far away and have been unable to travel during my long illness. Dad has been a hero to me since he loved me as his own flesh and blood the minute he married my mom – when I was 7 years old. And now he bears the burden of caring for mom during a long and difficult disease. His love for her compels him to protect her and keep her in familiar surroundings for as long as possible.
As I engaged myself further in conversation (and ran up the water bill), I thought about my frustration with residual changes in brain function that remain post cancer and how difficult it is to explain when it isn’t obvious to anyone but me. And how frustrating that is for me. And how I think mom tried to tell me something was wrong with her brain long before it was evident to anyone else. And how I did what people do to me. I said, “Oh, I do that too.”
I had a check up with my oncologist yesterday and I asked him if there was anyone out there (meaning in town) working with chemo brain. He called it the “proverbial chemo brain,” which started to piss me off even though I dearly love and respect him. He indicated (with his arm outstretched), that I was way “out there” – which I took to mean that I am a distinct minority of his patients who have brain complaints, especially a year after completing treatment. He surmised that we don’t know if it is the chemo that causes the problem or if it is the cancer itself, or if it is just the beating our body/brain takes as the result of a trauma, be it cancer, surgery, or something like he experienced last year – an aortic rupture. I guess that’s why he called chemo brain “proverbial.” I didn’t stay mad at him because he said he would do some checking and on the way out told his nurse that she should remind him about my chemo brain. There – he said it!
This all makes me sad that I didn’t listen when Mom made remarks about her memory years ago. I knew she was reading lots of books and articles about Alzheimer’s and what to do to try to prevent it. I knew that. And when we talked on the phone, she would say things like, “Boy, it seems like my memory isn’t what it used to be!” And if I asked what she meant and she gave an example, I would say, “Oh, I do that too! Last Sunday I couldn’t for the life of me remember the name of the woman I sit behind in church every week.”
And if that conversation only happened once, or maybe twice, that response may have been ok. But it happened more than twice.
Now that the shoe is on the other foot, I believe that Mom was trying to tell me that her brain had changed and she was worried. I wish I had listened to the intent behind her words. I wish I had accepted her words as truth and validated her concerns. I understand now that my misguided attempt to reassure her instead belittled her reality. I wish I could take that back.