84. Mothersday

11 May, 2022

Lavinia, Woensdag 11 mei 2022

If suddenly your mother is no longer your mother, but was transformed into a completely different person it feels strange. Not because she chose it herself, who would choose dementia? When she no longer recognizes you, and you don’t recognize her either, when communication has become completely different. When sentences only consist of a jumble of meaningless words, strung together by painful silences… When the silences get longer and longer, the sentences seem to have less and less meaning, but you still see that familiar face of your mom, then your head tells you that this isn’t right. The contradiction is too great. This isn’t the mommy who raised me, who took me to school by my little hand, who rubbed my aching knee anxiously. The strong, quiet and proud woman is no more. There is a stranger living in her body. And her body, which used to be nice and tender, is no longer there. Oh yes, she still walks stately through the corridors, with an upright posture. But her skinny silhouette betrays that the dementia has also robbed her of the initiative to eat.

For the first time, I experienced Mother’s Day completely unexpectedly in another dimension. Despite everything, I was not prepared for this. It came over me quiet suddenly. I had a video conversation with her, so that I still had the feeling that I was with her. However, the conversation was very difficult. I suspect she recognized me, but I don’t think she rTrying eally knew I was her daughter. This in itself is not important. It’s about giving her a good time, because it’s her day after all. And I could also see that she was happy. I tried several ways to access the woman with my mommy’s face. Trying to maintain a conversation, responding to what I saw on her table, or to the photos on the wall. The answers came very difficult, sometimes there were no answers at all. Body language became important once again. But using body language at 1800 kilometers via a small mobile screen is not obvious. I often saw her wandering away, somewhere in a world that is inaccessible to us. The frustration is huge because you feel like you need to talk. But this is not so at all. Proximity is so much more important. How I wanted to caress her bony hands, rubbing the superficial blue veins that pattern the back of her hand. How I loved to feel her slender body against my soft curves. I wanted to dance with her, just like when I visited Belgium recently. My meager attempts to sing a song together seemed like desperate convulsions to take her into a world that we could experience and share together. For a moment it seemed to work, she sang along with me for a moment, without words, but with a smile and small rhythmic movements in her head It didn’t bother me that I sang out of tune, especially mommy.

Mother’s Day has suddenly taken on a different meaning. A nasty meaning of always having to let go of what was : the countless hours that we – almost like friends – joked, took nice trips, knit a sweater together while we watched television. Secretly shared a piece of chocolate, without the rest of the family knowing. We had a strong bond: she was the sister I’ve always missed so much, and I seemed to be a bit of a friend to her. Every year we went on a trip together, to ‘the castle in the Ardennes’. My aunt organized camps there for children and adults who went on a kind of retreat. It had become our second home. My aunt stood behind the stove every day, stirring gigantic cooking pots. Everyone was spoiled with the tastiest dishes. It was quite primitive – an old monastery – with only small single rooms with a sink. The toilet was a bit further down the hall. It always smelled strange, like old buildings and old wood. The babbling brook just behind the castle where many children have walked with their boots.

Wat was ik er graag. Ruwweg geschat, denk ik dat we er wel 30 jaar lang heen zijn gegaan, elk jaar opnieuw, later ook met onze drie kinderen. Elke avond na de afwas werd er steevast met de kaarten gespeeld, urenlang lachen en gek doen.

I loved being there. Roughly speaking, I think we went there for about 30 years, every year, later also with our three children. Every evening after the dishes, we played the cards, laughing and acting crazy for hours.

I don’t know why, but with a sledgehammer the brutal reality set in. Those days will never come back. I have rationalized it for years, partly from my background as a care provider in geriatrics. I always managed to enter her world and experience beautiful moments together.

Alzheimer’s only gives a bitterness to the day that should have been her day. Enjoying her children and grandchildren. Instead, her day is rationed to her window seat, with the flower arrangement she made with her ‘fellow sufferers’. And yet not a hair on my head hesitates to say and feel, mama I love you !

A heartfelt big hug to every mom!

Hasta luego,


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