My Mom was and still is the quiet type. Her thoughts were never expressed, they were hers and hers alone, and never to be shared with anyone, not even with her husband. It always bothered me why my Mom was a woman of few words. I wondered if she thought that her opinion didn’t matter or was it instilled in her that women ought to be silent. She never complained about anything; she was always content; she avoided contentious issues, never argued with anyone, and got along well with most.
I told you that my Mom was never one to complain, nor shared her thoughts or talked about any pain or discomfort she was feeling except for this one thing. I do remember my mom saying on more than one occasion, “I’m having trouble walking straight.” She said it in such a nonchalant manner and tone that no one, not even I, took the time to respond to her cry, until “The Fall.”
After the fall in December of 2017, my Mom was diagnosed with neurosyphilis. I’ve heard the word syphilis before but not neurosyphilis. I had no idea what it was. The doctor told me and my father that it is an infection of the nervous system, specifically of the brain and the spinal cord. There are different types of neurosyphilis and their symptoms vary depending on the type. Symptoms of neurosyphilis are the weakening of the muscles, trouble balancing, loss of coordination and an altered walk. The hardening of the arteries in the brain is known to contribute and progress to dementia. After receiving detailed information from the doctor, my family and I were able to conclude the symptoms of neurosyphilis were what my Mom was referring to when she complained that she was unable to walk straight.
I cannot turn back the clock; I know that but oh, how I wish I could. If I had the opportunity to turn back the hands of time, I would have paid closer attention to my Mom’s silent suffering; I should have insisted that she see a doctor, I should have been there for her – but I wasn’t. Dementia has taken a whole of my Mom’s mind and robbed her of her ability to think, her short-term memory, and left her in utter silence and lacking any form of motivation.
I visit my Mom almost daily in hopes of redeeming the time or making the most of every opportunity, but instead, she sits in her favorite chair, staring into the abyss. Silence and stillness have become her only companions. I try to engage her by asking, “Do you want to watch TV, Mom?” She replied, “No”. “Wanna play a game?”, the answer is the same, “No”. “What would you like to do, Mom?”, “Nothing”, she says. So I sit with her in solitude, silently sending her my love and wishing that she would desire to want to do more with the end days of her life. But, solitude is what she wants. She is my Mom and I love her dearly.
Many thanks to Andrea Fickert from the Alzheimer Society Peel, Andrea has been a rock to my family in these difficult times.