A searingly honest and moving account by a writer who has witnessed her mother's slide into Dementia
The last time my mother tried to commit suicide, my father didn't even call an ambulance. He rang us three children and her two sisters, and said: "I'm letting her die this time. Are you all right with that?" We said: "Fine by us" and felt like members of her firing squad, a convenient dilution of responsibility. Sadly, 20 diazepam didn't do the trick. Her heart is as strong as an ox.
In her heyday, my mother was a fitness fanatic. She never smoked or drank alcohol, and religiously followed a macrobiotic diet. She was a skier, a golfer, a superb tennis player, a runner. She could never be bothered to sit down and watch television. I never even saw her read a book or listen to music. Now she is riddled with arthritis and can't walk a step unsupported; she can barely lift a spoon to her mouth. For 10 years now, she has pleaded to die.
My mother, beautiful, beguiling, passionate about bodies, dismissive of minds. Not for a day did she live through her children or grandchildren, she barely registered their exam results or their own sporting achievements. She lived for the sublimity of the ski-jump; the sudden, perfect ace; the long drive that hits the green in one. Everything else was dull and grey, and fuzzy to her. We always knew her old age would be hell.
When I was about 10, she made me promise that I would kill her if ever she became either disabled or demented. She would say: "I have no fear of death, you know. But I want a dead death, not a living one."
She has begged each of us in turn to take her to Switzerland, but we tell her that we couldn't live with ourselves if we helped her to die, and she understands that. So we cowards get on with our own lives and try not to think about her too much. There used to be a time when she could have explained herself to her doctor. They could have given her morphine for the pain, just a little too much. But how much easier it is to innure oneself to someone else's pain than to risk being struck off the medical register; how much easier it is to hide than to bear a bad conscience.
Her shoulders were the first part of her body to seize up. She was told to stop playing sport or she would lose the used of her arms altogether. She ignored them – she would not behave like an invalid – and now she can't even hold a pen. Then her hips and knees seized up; some of her toes became gangrenous and had to be amputated. For years my father – in his mid-80s – had to bath her and take her to the lavatory, but despite my mother's hunger strike and her weight falling to little over six stone, in the end he couldn't manage it and she is now in a nursing home.
My mother sits alone in her room. She won't sit in the lounge with the other residents, because she can't bear to hear the noise of the television. She whimpers; she is permanently in discomfort if not abject pain, not only from her arthritis but from leg ulcers and bedsores. The nurses encourage her to listen to music or an audio book. "I hate music," she says, "I hate stories." She spends her days watching the clock beside her, and describes to us how each five minutes drags like an eternity. For years she has taken a variety of antidepressants but they don't touch her – why should they? Will she suddenly wake up and say, "Hey, I never realised what fun a sedentary life could be!"
Then yesterday, while I was holding my mother's hand and trying to find life in her blank, anxious eyes, she suddenly said: "The nurses are trying to kill me. They're trying to give me a coronary. And your father's part of the plot, too. He wants to marry your aunt, you know."
In all of these years of watching her suffering so much, this was the first time I broke down. Yesterday was the day I lost her, when my old mother passed away. But the onset of dementia invites no ceremony, no grieving. While her life hangs in limbo, so does my response to what she, and I, are going though: there is no possibility of closure, nor might there be for many years to come.
Today, I am quite determined: eat, drink and be merry, or tomorrow you might not die.
2009-10-27 21:18 编辑：kuaileyingyu
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