So as mentioned in my last blog post on what care homes are teaching me, my Oma is my idol, she is The Legend. But she has Vascular Dementia which is a very cruel decease because it seems that when someone in really old all they have left is their memories, their life experiences; the children they’ve raised; the adventures they’ve been on; the big achievements of their lives, but Dementia strips you of all of these things, leaving you with only a few moments of the present that disappear quickly into the misty blue hole of the mind where all other memories and knowledge have also travelled.
I LOVE visiting my beloved Oma every day but it is emotionally draining. Visiting her is a whole world of highs and lows. One minute she’s providing witty banter, the next she’s trying to remember who my mother is (that would be her daughter) and what my mother’s name is (that would be Georgina, the name she bestowed upon her as a baby). Or she’s worried about her son Stuart because she thinks he’s recently been in a serious car crash – which he was…in around 1975. That sort of thing. Sometimes I leave the care home and just cry the whole walk home, it just seems so unfair, she’s such an amazing woman who has had the most interesting life (she’s a German woman who married an English solider in 1949 for goodness sake), she shouldn’t have all that taken away from her! But she mostly just laughs when she realises who my mum is, and that it’s 2015 and that made me realise that I have as much control over this decline as she has. Neither of us can change the inevitable, and I’m not an uber scientist able to delve into the depths of chemistry for a cure, so all in all I’m just going to have to accept it.
The only thing I can control is how I feel and how much better I can make her daily life, whether she remembers it or not. That is what every other visitor at the home is doing, that is what every other resident at the home is doing. They would be weird if they liked loosing their marbles, but there is nothing they can do so they live with it, they make the best of it, the wonderful nurses there keep happy and upbeat at all times – every one has accepted that this is currently an inevitable part of growing old and are doing their best to make it as painless as it can be. And actually she’s doing okay, she has her bad moments but she knows who I am, she can’t remember what day it is or which city she lives in but she can remember what my name is, and for some reason she can remember that I’m getting married on 30th May, random woman.
This is a “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” thing. Apart from I don’t believe that God grants me this wisdom, I believe it is within my power and learning to teach myself acceptance; to grow from my experiences and be able to congratulate myself when the choices I make come good and learn from the choice that come out badly. My stepdad always says “the luck you get is the luck you make yourself” which has always stuck with me. I really do believe in fate, I believe opportunities are put in our way but I believe that it’s up to us how we utilise these opportunities, how we recognise them and benefit from them – that is the luck we make. I want to take responsibility for my own life; for the good and the bad – it’s all within my power. And I learned all this from visiting a care home full of some very confused but lovely old people. These old folks are teaching me an awful lot – just wish they knew it!