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Comments 43

I’ve become a waddling Mama duck

Walking for wellbeing over 50 is essential

Black swans are the local town mascot #Dawlish #blackswan #cygnet #dementia

I’m at the start of my 3rd week visiting Mum in England, and realized today what’s happening: she’s imprinting on me like ducklings or cygnets do. When I ask her if she’s ready for breakfast, she looks at me to ask if I’m having some? Same with a cuppa, having a shower, or going for a walk.

It wasn’t like that for the first week. Or perhaps I was too jetlagged/overwhelmed/finding my way to notice? Now we’ve settled into a routine though, as I’ve learnt the rhythm of her days and nights, including the multiple daily carer visits.

So it suddenly stood out to me this afternoon, as I left for a walk on my own, that she really was becoming my shadow.

This isn’t good. I return home to Australia in 10 days, and yes, I’m definitely counting down. What’s going to happen once I’ve gone? Who will repeat for the fifth time what we’re having to eat? Who will cook her such fine, healthy lunches, and supply long-favoured treats like crumpets or Crunchie chocolate bars?

She will cheep and fret like a fluffy yellow duckling on the cold river’s edge.

So much is being lost here. So much past, but the future too. I’m losing my Mum, and my son ‘18’ his Grandma. The whole family is losing another matriarch, with all those memories and connections like a shawl around our shoulders.

And on some deep level, beyond articulation, Mum knows this. That’s why she’s instinctively imprinting; seeking a familiar anchor in an increasingly confusing world. I honestly have no idea how she’s managed to get this far and still be at home alone. It’s very confronting. I obviously want to reassure her, smoothing the many wrinkles in her day as much as possible, yet does that really serve her? I’m a band-aid for 3 weeks, not a solution.

Plus I have a sinking feeling that she’s going to be even more lost after I’ve gone home.

For now though, we’re taking our pleasures where we can. Last night we walked down to the local theatre company, and watched a film they were screening- she was transfixed. The previous Saturday, we dressed up (including her many rings), and went to the closing night of the same company’s play- we sat in the front row, and laughed out loud at the clever antics onstage. We’ve eaten more naughty snacks than the local bakery can provide, and I’ve cooked yummy vegetarian meals to counteract the frozen food she usually lives on.

I’ve felt the comfort for both of us at being her Mama duck, but it’s scaring me as well now.

43 Comments

  1. I admire your metaphor of the shawl–the family history worn protectively and comfortingly.

    I just spent a week in Philadelphia (I feel my first post in nearly three weeks writing itself), in part exploring little-known elements of my own past. This involved hours tramping carefully through old (and less old) Jewish cemeteries, searching for familial (if not always familiar) names. Finding key headstones (hello, great-grand pop D. Louis Berger, shot and killed in October 1919) provided some measure of connection.

    But my search for key records–of my maternal grandfather’s nearly 20 years of service to the Philadelphia Police Department, records of instrumental fires to my father’s business and my first house c. 1973–seem no longer to exist. (Don’t these folks understand I have a BOOK to write! 😉 )

    My point is, we all must work to preserve that shawl while–and as best–we can. We cannot always rely on external physical records to do the heavy lifting of preserving key memories (with all of their innate unreliability–they are still precious).

    Safe and productive travels.

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  2. You are such a strong woman for sharing your experiences on this. I hope when you leave your heart will be at peace with the choices that need to be made, and settled in the fact that your mom will be ok with your absence. All the love! Xoxo

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  3. I truly feel for you. It must be a daunting prospect to leave her when she is so vulnerable. The idea of imprinting is an engaging one, albeit, in this context, a sad one.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m wishing love, strength, and grace for both of you–and lots of forgiveness and self-compassion. Wish I could hold your hand electronically! (Well, maybe I can–so here’s a hand-squeeze across the electronic impulses!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I got it! Thanks Cathy- I am desperate for hugs from my friends in Oz when I get home- I’m missing my son and house and cat so much 😢

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  5. The distance you live from her must be hard, I was lucky mine lived next door as we prepared ourselves for this years before it was needed, but that too had it’s problems. Try to focus on the good times you are sharing and not what you are losing. My heart is with you in this journey.

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  6. I’m so sorry for your situation. There’s no easy way to deal with aging parents, especially when they are also suffering from severe memory loss. It’s heartbreaking and exhausting, whatever you choose. I agree with some of the comments above that you have to cling to the good memories and know that you are truly doing your best. Hugs to you!

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    • Thanks Ann- in some ways, I’m realising it’s a blessing too that I’m not doing this 24/7- I’d go crazy- I don’t know how people do it- we are definitely having fun together though too, so that’s good- and I’m taking lots of photos to make her an album etc. Thanks for the hug- I’ve been needing them 🙂

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  7. Marcia says

    Gab darling
    Does Judy remember me ? Anyway give her a big hug. Remember happy times with her in France.
    And big hug to you .so hard .
    What is next step ? X

    Liked by 1 person

    • To be honest Marcia, I don’t know if she does- she’ll say no, then ‘Oh yes I remember’ when prompted, but won’t recall 3 mins later- very tricky to get a handle on. I’m going to show her more photos today on my computer, she likes that. Will def hug her for you xxx Life is so bittersweet huh? Sending love to you xx

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  8. I love the image of you and your mum, and all the rellies there, in a flotilla paddling across a pond. 😀

    Perhaps on some level your mum knows this’ll be the last time the two of you are together and she’s absorbing as much as she can before the two of you fly off in different directions.

    I never witnessed the great bird migrations in OZ, and didn’t especially see any when I was living in Vancouver, but here our lake is a stop-over point for massive flocks of ducks, geese and swans. They’ve started heading south early this year, perhaps because of the wildfire smoke, but they fly across the sky in long ‘V’ formation streamers every evening to spiral in and spend the night on the lake. I watch them and feel as though they are harbingers of endings – of the year, of summer, of them raising their little ones.

    It’s the cycle of the seasons, endings and beginnings, and so it is with you and your mum.

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  9. I’ve only just read and commented on the previous post, very light-hearted. This one has an understandable tinge of sadness. I hope you can find peace in the situation and decisions, knowing that your Mama Duck has done her absolute best for her Mum. So much care, love and fun.

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  10. Enjoy this time, I had a similar time with my Dad when he was descending into his madness before he died. The look in his eyes when I would leave, was like he was trying to remember me….in the end who would confuse me with my older sisters, and then in the final visits he wouldn’t even recognise me. So enjoy the time with your Mum as she imprints on you……these are the memories that will continue with you through life…..

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I went through something very similar with my late mother and it’s absolutely heartbreaking. Little by little the people they were fades away. All I can say is enjoy every precious minute while you can….

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    • Thank you so much for sharing and commenting- I am dreading the decline- it seems so unfair- I guess old age just IS a slow decline in one way or another… We certainly did have some fun- there will be more short posts about fun stuff Mum said 😊

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      • You have to find the humor, otherwise you’ll cry nonstop. I did both… and take it from me, laughing wins every time. Take a lot of pictures. And videos if you can. I wish I’d done more of that before the end. It’s been 4 years since my mother passed and not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. *hugs*

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        • Thanks for the advice- I did just that- I shot a hilarious video a couple of weeks ago of us singing a Bob Marley song and laughing at ourselves- we watched it over and over and laughed again and again- so precious. Thank you for sharing 🙏🏼 G

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  12. I’m so glad you had the opportunity to spend quality time with your mum is so difficult living on the opposite side of the world from those you love

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jad- yes, it’s kinda hard, but it’s also a clear choice I made over 33 years ago… I’ve accepted that my heart will always feel a little divided in two different worlds 🙏🏼

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