UNEASY RIDER: THE BACK STORY
“As a primary caregiver, your life will always be a neverending saga when living with a love one who has dementia. Even at the early stages, there must always be a constant vigilance….”
It had been 9:00am that morning. A bright yellow sun now nestled in light-blue skies beckoned us. Our windows were half opened. So, the sweet aromas of a brand new day rushed in—filling our nostrils with the inspiration of new beginnings.
Already we had been driving around the city for two hours now, my mother and I. On occasions we would get up early in the morning and drive around–especially when she had been feeling restless. And since her Dementia, we had been taking these early morning drives more often than not.
These rides seem to calm her. And this morning, I noticed that her disposition had been vacillating between long bouts of quiet calmness and short spells of anxieties. I thought that I would try to break the pattern some by reminiscing about “old times” that we had shared as a family. She would laugh. So would I. For that brief moment, I had back my mom.
“Mother..you ready to go home?”
“No. Let’s keep ridin’. I’m not ready to go home yet. —We got enough gas?”
“Yep.” I would reply.
Then came the quietness, again. However, it didn’t last long because she seem to begin tensing up and pointing at various vehicles that we would pass on the road. She appeared to be more interested in the red ones. Somehow they seemed to conjured up something frightening to her. With dementia there are no rhyme or reasons. I also noticed in the corner of my eye that she was becoming more agitated.
“—Elvis, let’s go somewhere else. I don’t like it over here”, she said in haste as I would literally hear her rapidly breathing. I noticed her moving around in her seat more. She was nervously rubbing together her hands as if she were trying to warm them.
“You want to go home now?” I would keep checking.
“No, no, let’s just keep driving” she contested.
So I took a turn on the highway. She loved riding on the freeway. I thought that it would be more serene and even less traffic—especially at this time of morning. Most everyone had gone to work. The “rush hour” madness had past. I would veer into the slower right lane and take the scenic route.
The steady drone of the engine became somewhat hypnotic. My eyes kept closing and opening. And the steady jerk of my bobbing head would not be the strong coffee that I needed to keep my attention on the road. We had been riding for hours now. I had been getting sleepy. My mom had been unusually quiet I had noticed. Her anxiety interruptions had been my snooze control.
–Then she grabbed the passenger side door handle and swung open the door. Immediately, I awakened. I could hear the loud and steady sounds of my tires grinding on pavement—almost like a strong rush of wind in a scary storm.
—Mother, shut the door!”, I yelled. But she appeared to be trying to get out of the car. I also noticed that she had unbuckled her seatbelt. I gripped tightly the steering wheel with my left hand. With my right, I grasped her left arm. The sickening gravelly sound of tires on pavement seem to get louder.
Quickly I pulled over and stopped the car. It was only then that I had been able to lean over and completely shut and lock the door. I really can’t say whether I left it open or whether she unlocked it herself.
So, we just sat there for a few minutes. I had to catch my breath. Certainly I was awake. I looked at her and she seem to have composed herself and not be any the worse for wear. How could I really say anything to her. It was not her fault. It was the dementia. I told her that everything was ok. So I asked her again.
“Mother, are you ready to go home now? I’ll cook you a nice lunch, ok.”
“yeah, I’m ready…” , she resigned.
“I love you, Mom.”
“I love you too, son”….