The Bandaid

Sometimes I wonder if Alzheimers has peeled off a layer of my mother that kept manners in place. 

A bandaid of inhibition lies curled in the dust at our feet.

My mother would never have said the things she sometimes says now, does the things she sometimes does.  She would have recoiled from them. They are – were – counter to her very nature.

She lifts a piece of bread high above her plate at breakfast time and drops it.  


“It’s stale”, she sneers, “Look”. And she moves to repeat the exercise by way of example.

Fine. I snap. “Don’t eat it then”.

My supper is horrid.

(Of the lasagne she loved last week).

This program is stupid.

(Of the show she enjoyed yesterday).

She is not telling me these things conversationally. She is complaining.

And then: ‘Sorry if you made it’, of the lasagne.

She’s not. Sorry. 

Some mornings, resistant to rising, she rails against my – equally stubborn – resistance that she lie in bed all day.

Some mornings I have to drag from her bed, lead her, like a recalcitrant old dog at the end of a taut leash, to the loo so we can change her diaper. And all the while she keeps up a litany of woes: I don’t want to get up, why do I have to get up, I want to stay in bed.

“You need to get up Mum because I need to change you, I need you to drink, I need you to eat”.

And then I need to go to work, I say. (It is almost ten. I have achieved nothing for days.)

Oh I see, she hisses, “It’s alright for you: I have to get up only for you to abandon me and go to work”.

I see nothing of my mother here. I cast about the room and look for her. But she is gone. Long gone. Her sweetness replaced by bile and rancour.  Her solicitude by self-centredness.

This is a feature of this cruel illness, this shedding of societal pleasantries, the peeling of the skin of conformity, the erosion of empathy. It is, when I try to understand why it happens, a literal manifestation of my metaphorical bandaid: a thinning of cortical thickness in the right frontal pole of the brain is associated with the disinhibition that my mother exhibits daily now.

There are reasons to explain every aspect of dementia that presents – the lack of balance, the dropped words, the incontinence, the so-called ‘sundowning’ – every time a slice of my mother is pared away, thinning her and thinning her until I know soon she will vanish entirely, I look for that reason, am compelled to explain it to myself.  I rifle through virtual sheafs of paper on the internet as I search academic papers, try to fathom the research. 

I don’t know why this helps. But it does. There are reasons. There are always reasons.


4 Responses to “The Bandaid”

  1. Addy Says:

    It is a cruel disease. I have a small inkling of what you are going through, as my sister-in-law’s partner has it. He cannot recall what you told him or what he watched on TV five minutes later. Conversations are on continual loop. Fortunately he makes a joke of everything and is not angry or complaining, but even so, it is hard work. My thoughts and hugs go out to you.

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      Thank you, Addy. That it is: a very cruel disease. Conversations on a continual loop … yes, so true X

  2. Lily Says:

    I have been looking through your stories for clues, hope, answers and comfort as I walk a similar journey with my father. Nostalgia (that birthday of ghosts) is no help but without it there would be even more resentment. Thank you for translating it all so beautifully, a small victory in this horrible war.

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