What if we were to look at dementia as a transition phase between life and death, experienced through the eyes of a child? People with Alzheimer’s leave suffering from the past and worries about the future behind, to live fully in the present, like a child.
And how can I learn to relate to someone who functions this way in the world? What must I leave behind? What must I open myself up to?
Every time I sit down with my mother and she looks at me with her eyes full of wonder, pleasure, sadness or anger, part of me wants to understand her, know what is wrong with her, ask her what she needs … This part of me, the daughter I was, is not satisfied with that expression of herself at that moment, the daughter wants more…
And by wanting more I lose what is left. I lose the simplicity of enjoying the moment: she smiles, I smile, she gets cross, I get cross, I look at her, and she looks at me …A return to the essential. We are together and nothing else matters. Life is a game.
My mother and I sometimes play together, when I get over the urge to understand and relate to her as I relate to everything and everyone, as a rational, responsible, adult person.
Because when I leave this behind, and I open myself up to the possibility of reinventing our relationship every minute we are together, we become two girls playing. Two girls who just met in a park. We don’t want to speak of the past or make plans for the future, there is just wonder and pleasure: “this is my spade”, “that is my favourite swing”, “let’s go to the pond”…
As an adult daughter, I know that this disease is a process with no return. A painful journey during which each day I lose a little of the person I love until the moment at which she will definitively leave.
As a playmate I only want to be with her now, just as she is, enjoying every little detail: a shared biscuit when it’s snack time at the home, the morning bath, a sudden gust of wind that makes her exclaim “it’s so cold”.
This is why I decided to also return to my childhood and meet up with my mother there, to one day be able to bid her goodbye with a smile, knowing that we enjoyed every last minute of the time we shared.
(In the photo, my mother with my two nieces. Don’t they share the same light?)