A Photographic Diary
Mother worries us. She forgets what we tell her, constantly loses her keys, her purse, etc. For her own safety, I had to unplug the stove: a few times, she’d forgotten a pan on the burner.
I made this photo at the request of the police. Mother got lost twice lately. She loves to walk so much! But it has become dangerous for her to go out: she doesn't recognize her environment, and roams the streets for hours on end trying to find her way.
We had to put Mother in a nursing home. We found her a lovely two-room apartment.
For her, it’s a prison: she wants to leave, she wants to go home, she doesn’t understand why she’s stopped from doing so. "I have done nothing wrong," she says, crying.
She’s terribly unhappy.
And so are we…
Mother is home for dinner. I suggest we take a few pictures.
She’s changed so much! She used to always be so "proper" and would never have been this playful.
I thought it was a good idea.
I brought Mother to an art exhibit in a nearby town. Everything seemed fine until fatigue crept in. She began to confabulate, mistaking me for her husband. Perplexed by my assertion that I was her son and not her husband, she became frantic and hurt: "Why are you doing this to me? Why are you saying you are not you?".
We both came back exhausted, wounded, and troubled.
Mother isn’t well. She has problems moving, putting one foot forward, then the other. She talks little and whenever she does, she speaks in a low voice, she whispers.
Everything’s slowed down; she appears drugged, empty. But, thank God, she’s not as restless, frightened, anguished.
For us, her children, it’s sadly relieving.
We’ve learned a new word: ischemia, "an insufficient supply of blood to an organ, usually due to a blocked artery." In the brain, cells are starved of blood for some time; some die, others recover.
We’re told that this is surely not Mother’s first cerebral ischemia, that on the X-ray her brain looks like Swiss cheese…
Mother is out of the hospital. She just got a place in a long-term care facility. She shares a room with another lady who is also afflicted with a degenerative brain disease.
Her medication has obviously been well adjusted: she hasn’t been this alert and aware for a long time.
Her confusion is increasing… It has one beneficial effect: her anxiety is lessened. Every time we visit her, she still says: "I’m coming with you. I’m not staying here. I don’t live here, it’s not my home," only now, she accepts with docility that we walk away, that we leave her there, alone, in her growing emptiness.
Another loss, another bereavement.
Mother isn’t able to stand on her legs anymore. Her world is shrinking, her dependency is growing further. She who, as she neatly put it, liked so much to nose around town…
We visit before leaving for the family party… without her.
The last photo I made of her.
Mother died November 23rd, 2001. Her cruel degeneration had lasted for five years.