2023.48 : Reality Check

Photo Location: San Francisco, CA, U.S.A. (Circa 2020)

The thing they don’t tell you about having dementia is that you’ll forget your memory.

— My Mom

Have you ever cried on the inside and laughed out loud at the same time? Me neither. Until that moment when Mom said those words. Take a moment. Let her words tumble around in your head. Now you too have cried on the inside and laughed out loud at the same time.

Every Sunday we go to lunch with her beloved sister at her favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Every Sunday it’s a surprise to her. Every Sunday she is filled with joy, never taking it for granted. Every Sunday I don’t tell her we’re going until we’re on our way. Why? That’s a long essay in and of itself.

One Sunday I inform her that her sister has invited us to Sunday lunch. In between the outbursts of joy, she says, “Last night I prayed this would happen.”

Another Sunday I let her know we’ll have lunch at her favorite place courtesy of her sister. After collecting herself from the happiness, she says, “My Aquarian senses just knew this would happen.”

A random given Sunday I share the good news. After touching my shoulder with a hand of approval, she says, “I had the strongest feeling this would happen today.”

Every time my reply is the same, “Auntie is the best.”

The most unexpected hard part of caregiving for someone with dementia is having to constantly run back and forth across the bridge of our respective realities. It’s not the running that’s hard; it’s the tripping while running. The sense of failure requires intense mindfulness practice.

A few years ago, after decades of false starts, virtual reality technology reached a tipping point. In a two-week window, rare public demonstrations of the latest achievements started taking reservations. Next thing I know I committed to my craziest over-ambitious international travel itinerary. After this deep dive of experiencing the latest and greatest VR, the deepest impression that still remains is, the world we experience in VR becomes reality to the mind.

Many years ago now I wanted to learn self-defense, not martial arts, from one of the best teachers, in a part of the world where such skills are a necessity. Tel Aviv. My teacher was discussing the best technique when dealing with someone suffering a psychotic moment. Immediately attempt to share their reality. If they are hearing voices, then they are; ask for help to understand what the voices are saying. Talk first. Violence is like an automotive airbag. Sure, it might help save your life, but it also means there’s been a terrible accident and all the horrible that can result.

I learned this week of a professional dancer whose reality has been peak physical health and nutrition. She recently became crazed with nearly uncontrollable impulses to eat sugar. She was stunned at the change in her own behavior. Those close to her were baffled. She has learned she has a brain tumor.

Mannequins in storefront displays hold an endless fascination for me. My imagination runs wild, and I enter the crafted reality. The woman, oops, the female mannequin, in this week’s photo is unnervingly real-looking.

Some realities can’t, or shouldn’t be shared. A precious few must be shared to help us survive the onslaught of realities not suitable to our own well-being.

It’s all checked my reality.

And know… know the photograph.

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