So I usually use my blog to talk about my beliefs in equality, or what inspires me to write but today I was thinking about something a little different.
I work in a small town grocery store. It’s a great place to work and I am very grateful every day that I was given the opportunity to work there. One of the things that I love about it is that I get to meet so many interesting people. As a small community, we get the same people in our store day after day and I talk to a lot of them. I enjoy listening to their stories, especially from the large senior population that comes to shop almost every day. I always try to remember that for some of these people, the cashiers and other store staff might be the only conversations some of the people get to have all day.
Today this lady came in and I hadn’t seen her in a little while. She’s a lovely lady and usually came in with her mom. Her mom suffers from dementia and I’ve known them for about 5 years now. When I first met them, her mom still talked. She would say hi, ask how I was doing and tell me she was going home to Spruce Grove every chance I get. Even then the dementia had started to set in but she was a feisty old lady, dashing off and trying to escape the store every chance she got. She was sneaky too, waiting until her daughter was distracted by something before making a break for it. She was always smiling while she did it too, and I knew that some part of her was getting a kick out of being a bit of a rebel.
Because they were in the store a lot, I could see as the dementia got worse. For a while she started glaring at me and a couple of times she tried to hit me, much to the horror of her daughter but I didn’t let it bother me. I can only imagine the frustration her mom must have felt in her moments of clarity, knowing there was something wrong and not knowing how to fix it.
The last couple of year, she didn’t speak at all. She yelled a lot, like a small child does, smiling and gesturing and still getting into little bits of trouble. You could hear her clearly as she made her way through the store with her daughter and it always made me smile. Most of the staff said hi to her and spoke to them both as they went through and the daughter was always very grateful for the kindness she found at the store for her and her mom.
Today the daughter came in alone and I asked how she was doing and her eyes teared up as she shared with me that her mom had passed away 3 weeks ago and I wanted to go around my counter and give her a hug. I didn’t though. I could see that she was trying hard to hold herself together, and sometimes when you are in that head space, a hug with good intentions can be the straw that broke the camels back.
But the reason her visit today affected me so much was how much she very obviously missed her mom.
Her life couldn’t have been easy the last few years. Her mom’s behaviour was pretty much that of a toddler, and the daughter looked completely exhausted every time I saw her. She’d always have to keep her mom behind her at the till so she didn’t run out of the store and her mom was always smashing the small cart she was pushing into her daughter’s side and I know it had to hurt, in more ways than just physical.
But she still missed her. Even though it was hard, even though it was probably painful, having to act like the parent in the relationship because I know that when my life is making me crazy, the first person I still want to talk to is my mom.
That kind of love really is amazing. I mean, I wouldn’t have blamed the daughter for being a little relieved that the ordeal was finally over and that they would both get some peace, but I could tell that she’d give anything to have her mom back, just how she was, for just a little longer.
Alzheimer’s runs in my family. Both my grandmothers suffered from it as did an aunt and I know the odds of one of my parents…or myself developing it is fairly high. And I won’t lie and say it doesn’t scare me. I rely so much on my parents, mostly because I truly enjoy their company, and I have no idea what I would do without them to lean on.
I talk to my mom almost every day and movie night with dad is one of my very favorite things. When life is wearing me down, moms always got a free ear for me and dad always knows how to make me laugh.
I can only hope that if I find myself in that daughter’s shoes one day, I can half as amazing as she did with her mom. Her patience and good humor were truly a miracle and while I know she most likely got down at times and probably despaired a time or two, you never would have guessed it from the way she interacted with her mom every time I saw them.
I hope that someday my girl remembers me and smiles through her tears.
And I’m thankful for days like today that remind of how lucky I am to have my family in my life.