The demise of a loved one is never pretty. The angst of seeing someone you know gradually decline is horrific at best. This piece is based on taking care of my mother-in-law who has lived with us for the past two years. She is now 92.
Her book is before me, several chapters swelling with stories I can’t wait to read. At first, the print is quite large, the words simple, one syllable at most, the sentences short, easy to read, easy to comprehend.
A few chapters later, the letters get a little bit smaller. There are more words to the page, the stories slightly longer, filled with nuance and subterfuge. Her point of view is quite novel, although I notice a few broken sentences, dangling participles, and run-ons. I continue to read, straining to put the phrases back together in some semblance of order, trying my best to rewrite, edit, and makes some sense of her story.
The weary words are already there, proof of past flaws, and sorry lessons. I try to skim over these difficult parts, noticing that the consonants and vowels are fighting with one another to dominate the page, vying for my attention as the type continues to shrink.
I squint at the fatigued sentences hobbling along the page, the run-ons trailing to nowhere, typos acting like they belong, but the damage is there, the print, evidence of a fractured history. I decipher some meaning from the script, despite the blurred misspellings and poor punctuation.
Up ahead there’s a dog-eared page, a physical reminder of something that was probably important.
Ahead is the final chapter, the type contracting so that it looks like a trail of ants. The type weaves up and down along the page, no longer standing at attention in tight little rows, the black swirls trailing off into nowhere.
Her story is confused. A book that once had purpose, now reduced to a flock of black dots scattered across the page.
I close the book and look at my mother, holding her memories to my chest and recalling the words that once held meaning.
For those of you who are dealing with someone with memory issues, there are many resources available to you. Feeling frustrated and isolated is something that comes with this sort of thing. It’s important to know that you are not alone, and to also expand your network so that you are better able to not only care for your loved one, but care for yourself as well.