Cheryl Hughes: Sweet As Candy
My stepmom is starting to show signs of dementia. She stays with my sister, Lorrie, in Prestonsburg, most of the time. When Lorrie and her husband, Charles, go on vacation, she rotates between my two brothers’ homes in Taylorsville. Lorrie says she notices when Mom has a break in her routine, the dementia gets worse.
In December, Mom stayed with my brother, Carl, for one week, then with my brother, Mark, for the next week while Lorrie and Charles went to the mountains. After Lorrie and Charles returned, we celebrated Christmas in Taylorsville at Mom’s house. Carl and Susan cleaned the house and put up a Christmas tree. We did a potluck meal and set up extra tables for our large family. I sat at the table with my brothers and their wives and listened to the tales of what Mom did and said while she stayed with them.
Carl said one morning he went into Mom’s room to wake her for breakfast. When he turned on the light, she sat straight up in bed and said, “MY NAME IS ROBERTA!” My brother never missed a beat. “MY NAME IS CARL, NICE TO MEET YOU!” he said.
Mark’s wife, Karen, said she had to hide Mom’s suitcases, because she kept going through her clothes over and over throughout the day. “She kept insisting that she wear two pair of panties at the same time,” Karen said. “I had to argue with her constantly about it.”
“She always wears two pair of panties,” I said, “a silky pair and a cotton pair.”
“Well, she didn’t at my house,” Karen laughed.
I finally figured out that my stepmom has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) when I stayed with her back in June, while Charles’ father was in the hospital. It dawned on me that she had always had the disorder, and that’s why she had such a short fuse when we were growing up. I can’t believe it took me so long to recognize what was going on with her all those years. The dementia has just accentuated it. She constantly checks the same things over and over. She can’t sit still or focus on a TV show for very long, because she is always up worrying with something.
This year, we decided we would bring gifts and play the Dirty Santa game. You know, it’s the game where everybody draws a number, and the first person picks a present from the table of presents, then the next person can either pick a present from the table or steal a present from someone who went before them.
I sat beside Mom, so I could help her when it came her turn. She drew the number eight. Karen drew number one and chose an item from the table. When she unwrapped it, it was a large tray filled with all kinds of candy. Mom asked if it was her turn next. I explained that her number was eight and that we were only at the second person. Garey was the second person, and he unwrapped two pair of leather gloves. Mom asked if it was her turn now. I once again explained that she was number eight and that we weren’t at her number yet. This happened through every subsequent number until it was actually her turn.
“It’s your turn now,” I told Mom.
She never hesitated. She got up from her chair, walked directly over to Karen and took the large tray of candy from her lap. We all burst out laughing. You see, Mom loves candy, she always has. She eats candy every day, and she had had her eye on that tray since Karen unwrapped it. Despite the dementia, our mom who loved candy was still in there. It was so life-affirming to see that.
Driving home that night, I wondered what will remain at the end when I get there. I hope it’s something as sweet as candy.