I left home to work when I was 17 years old. I have worked with international organisations including the UN for nearly 25 years and lived in Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar, and lastly in Afghanistan for eight years. I have experienced love, death destruction, joy, resilience, determination, and generosity of spirit, at close quarters.
I came back to live in Bangalore again in 2011 to take care of my mother who has been suffering from dementia (possibly Alzheimer’s disease). Earlier my sister was taking care of her in Dubai. But my mother loved her hometown. She always wanted to be in Bangalore. It wasn’t feasible for my married sister (or brother) to move to Bangalore. It was much easier for me, being single, to move to take care of mum. Not only that, I wanted to spend time with my mother since I left home for a career when I was very young.
Mum doesn’t remember me as her daughter. She lives in her own world. Some days she thinks she is a little child and other days she is a teenager or a young woman. I play along. Growing up I never heard my mother even utter the word sex. But now, she speaks of it often without inhibitions or hesitation. It can sound or seem crass, demeaning, pleasurable or just plain naughty. It doesn’t affect me anymore. Though it does affect the rest of my family to different degrees.
The joys of caring for mum are those moments when she smiles when I enter the room, the fleeting moments when there is a look of recognition on her face when she sees me; her singing aloud to songs she knows, the faces she pulls when she is naughty, when she groans and grunts with pleasure when you give her a back rub.
I regret my relationship with her in the past, my lack of understanding and empathy in the early years of her illness. When she has a blank look on her face, I always wonder whatever is she thinking? Those are moments when I feel low.
My greatest fear is that I too might get Alzheimer’s like my mother and will have no control over my life.