Not near as sexy as it sounds.
The ability to identify my sister and I by name left Mom a long time ago. The first time I realized this I was screwing around in the back yard, peripherally hearing someone say “Girl? Girl?” As I realized it was my mother’s voice, I looked around to see her on the balcony above, beckoning me, the “Girl” to come up and join her. I felt as if I had suddenly been transported to a pre-Civil War plantation, and I, the hired help, dutifully headed up the back stairs to see what she needed.
Since then my sister and I have gotten used to being the “Girl.” Whomever is not at home has now been christened “The Other Girl.” Now, this gets real tricky when both of us are standing before Mom and she can’t figure out which one of us is Girl and which one is The Other Girl.
It’s a bit of a Who’s On First routine, which sometimes we rescue her from, and sometimes, because, after all, we are our mother’s daughters, we sometimes don’t.
Things get even more interesting when you take into account that Mom’s pronoun usage is spotty at best. There are times when The Other Girl could be a boy, a nephew, a brother, or my boyfriend downstairs (that’s an easy one if she’s pointing down). And to make matters even more convoluted, The Other Girl may not only not be a girl, “she” may not even be alive; it could be my deceased grandpa, or my father. It takes some trampoline size leaps in logic to follow her verbal gymnastics and identify who she is referring to.
But mostly it’s Girl and The Other Girl. Two sisters, who would get t-shirts made to celebrate our new names but wouldn’t know which one to wear when.
Mom was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2010. Dad vowed to keep his sweetheart at home and take care of her until the day she died, and my sister and I believed him because he’s that kind of man. As it turns out he’s also the kind of man to die of pancreatic cancer. Suddenly. With little time for us to do anything except promise him that we would take up the baton and continue the race as Mom’s full-time care partners.
It’s been two years of marathoning with Mom and her dementia. And while she’s busy forgetting most of what she knew, we’re learning a thing or two about the hilarity of accepting the unacceptable, about teamwork between two very different sisters, and about care giving tips and tricks. So, I vomit up all my care partner words in a fervent hope that it will strengthen my resolve and further my commitment to this exasperating, hilarious, heartbreaking, and gratifying journey, and to share and learn from others marching down the same road.