Ever since my mother fell ill, we started spoiling her more. The affection and the tenderness was what connected us the most. She was, for example, a very simple woman who had never been to the hairdresser’s, so we started to take her there and we discovered that she really liked it. She even requested it, using certain gestures. Sometimes I’d even give her a lipstick so that she could do herself up; and, truth is, she wasn’t bad at it at all.
We tried to get her to do everything for herself, while she still could. She was a very independent woman. When we had to put her in a wheelchair she wasn’t at all pleased , so we tried not to have her always be seated; we got her to walk behind it, so that she could use it like a walker.
Although she didn’t speak at the end, there were certain key words that would generate a huge smile. “Lucky”, for example, was the name of one of the three dogs she owned. I believed that that worked with her sensorial memory: she didn’t remember the dog per se; I think that it was the positive stimulus that this word somehow provided her.
One lovely connection was the one she had with my niece, her only granddaughter. When the girl was born, my mother was still in control of all her faculties and she dedicated herself to taking care of her granddaughter. They spent a lot of time together. Six years later, my mother started to show signs of the illness and curiously, the girl, who was only six, began to “take care of” her grandmother. She was the one who most encouraged her to do tasks so that she wouldn’t lose control of her capacities.
Communication with my mother was reduced to smiles and looks, especially into the eyes. Many times, we noticed that she smiled with a glance, although her facial expression because of her mouth showed a serious look. Just by looking at us, she transmitted her need for affection and she showed us how thankful she was when she received it.
She also expressed herself using gestures. When something caused her pain or there was something she didn’t like, her face would wrinkle up. For example, she loved eating and we knew perfectly well when she protested because we took her plate away.
We also discovered the power of touch. We’re a family that’s not used to touching each other but, suddenly, we felt the need to do so.
Whether you like it or not, you lose the fear of making a fool of yourself. My sister and I would pretend that we were arguing in front of her, and she would laugh; somehow, she knew it was all a joke.
I remember the first day that I had to bathe her. In my house we’d never seen each other naked. I was scared because I didn’t know how to do it, and it was such a natural thing to do, like I’d been doing it all my life.
I’ve discovered so many things. I’ve encountered things that are new and very positive. Living with someone who’s ill like this has its difficult moments, but the illness has taught us a lot. We’ve learnt to touch each other and express affection naturally. I’ve really enjoyed feeling more affectionate. I’ve enjoyed my mother’s smile enormously. I believe that now I feel more closed to the family. There are four of us children and this has really brought us together because we’re more present; the connection between us is stronger.