In my dreams, Mom is either talking and sharing wisdom or lost and unreachable. There is no in between. As a life-long dreamer I have become a student of my dreams. Some, I write off to whatever I had for dinner the night before. Others contain insights and perspectives I have never considered before. Some reveal my anxieties and fears. Still others, are gifts from Heaven. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a dream is worth 100,000.
In one of my latest, our family was all on a bus going somewhere together. Mom was with us. At one stop in some city, Dad got out to throw away a water bottle. He set his camera down for a second, forgot it, and returned to the bus. As the bus pulled away, I looked out the window and saw Mom standing beside the trash can with the camera in her hand. She had gone to retrieve it and gotten confused. I called and reached for her but she couldn’t see me. She was wandering down the street confused and unable to find her way. We were all on the bus yelling for the driver to stop and go back. We watched her in the rear window get smaller and smaller. I woke with tears on my pillow, in a cold sweat with my heart pounding.
Dreams like this one are representations of what I see happening in real life. They spell things out clearly. The feelings of helplessness that I bury on a daily basis come bubbling to the surface from my subconscious and make themselves known. There are many dreams like this one, but they all have a similar theme. I feel equally distraught in every one of them.
Then there are the ones where Mom is herself. There are fewer of these kind. We are all sitting at a table, a meal is in front of us. There is laughter and conversation. I sit and just listen to her talk to each member of the family. No major revelations, just normal conversation. I hear her start to offer some thoughts on one subject or another. I strain my ears to hear from my end of the table. I long to have my turn sitting by her side and waiting for her to impart wisdom on a decision I have to make, or just to share what is on her heart. I feel myself waking up and I try not to. She smiles, perfectly at peace and surrounded by those she loves. I don’t want to leave the table or burst the dream bubble.
I take these dreams as encouragements. Gifts really. I get to sit with her and see her as herself. In some of these dreams we don’t speak but we understand each other’s thoughts. They are never long ones like the other kind, which seem to go on forever as I frantically try to reach her. These are short and sweet. Too short. Sometimes by the time I get up in the morning I can’t even remember them, only the feeling of her not being gone yet.
I write about this personal stuff because I know we are not the only family going through this. I know so many who are wrestling daily with the same feelings I am having. They might not appear in your dreams, but they will appear. In relationships that are stressed. In anxiety that keeps you up at night. In tears that wash down the drain in the shower. This is a hard road we are on. In all my dreams were Mom gets lost we are always on a journey. We always get separated. It is so much like the separation I feel from her emotionally as she fades.
We always say we are happy that she is happy. It’s true, because we know not everyone who is walking this road has a cooperative loved one. We, so far, have been blessed that she seems content and agreeable. We are so blessed to have our Fridays with her, even if she doesn’t know who we are. We have conversations and she responses to the rhythm of the words. She nods and jibber jabbers to be a part. Today at lunch she sighed and said, “My tuff is fluff.” Our best guess is that she was full, or tired. It was as cute as it was frustrating. But I will take the rhythm of words I cannot understand over the difficult comments of some dementia patients to their family whom they know any day of the week.
My fellow sojourners, hang in there. I feel your pain and I know you understand mine. Knowing you are out there, helps us not feel so alone. We are with you and for you, if only in spirit. Please know you are not alone. I pray you have sweet dreams.