Saturday, May 03, 2008

Mixing Threads Of Reality

My mom's brain combines facts from various events and creates a new "reality."

Example 1
The Real Reality
My father dropped dead of a massive heart attack in our backyard. My mother discovered him when she arrived home from work one afternoon and the neighbors called 911 when they figured out why she was screaming.

When the paramedics arrived, "Mr. June" showed up as part of the response team. Knowing that my father hated him, my mom kept yelling to keep him away from the scene.

After that, my mom bought an angel statue and put it in the yard where my father was found. Two years ago, we had to cut down a tree in the backyard after it died. There is a large stump still there.

The "New" Reality
Mr. June is buried in our backyard under the tree stump.

Example 2
The Real Reality
Mom was on the side of the garage weeding and ended up fainting in the yard. (I wrote about this previously.) As part of my efforts to keep her from weeding again, I told her I didn't want the neighbors to find her that way. If she ever broke a hip, they would call 911 and she'd be in the hospital which would be the beginning of the end. She tends to respond better if she thinks people might disapprove of her and I thought a little scare might get through to her.

The "New" Reality
The neighbors are complaining that she doesn't take care of her yard. So she thinks she has to go out and work in the yard, exactly opposite of my intentions.


Greg said...

Who we are is largely the story we tell ourselves. It's scary how contingent we are, how fragile is the structure of those significant memories, the ones that are part of us, part of who we are. I remember learning about 'unreliable narrators' in Literature class at school.

It's so frustrating when Mum remembers the precise opposite of my instructions. I end up policing everything I say to her, now, just in case she constructs something troublesome from the components of my sentences. And so our conversations become simpler, generic, devoid of anything significant. It's not a solution. I feel like I'm feeding her processed ready-meals instead of something nutritious.

Thanks for a fascinating post.

Ruthie said...

Oh how well I relate. We just have to keep our sense of humor, don't we? I wish I knew more about Greg's "unreliable narrators".. sounds like he's onto something there.

Anonymous said...

My partner's Mom is just starting down this road. She had a physical last year, and now she no longer wants to go out in public because she "remembers" that the last time she went to the [bank, post office, grocery store] they made her take her clothes off and embarrassed her.