Mom and I got to visit today. Due to Covid-19, a visit these days means we sit in the rocking chairs on the porch of the building where she lives. I’m not complaining, in fact I’m grateful for the rocking chairs and the porch, a safe but sheltered place we can be together.
Today was a soggy, misty, rainy day. The weather is always a topic of conversation throughout our porch visits. Mom appreciates a blue sky and takes joy when there are puffy white clouds, often describing each one at length. But today, there was no blue sky. She mentioned several times: “The sky is just one big, giant white cloud.” She was right.
We sat together for an hour, and the rain was constant throughout our visit. Mostly, it was a quiet, misty sort of rain. I knew that it was raining, but mom would forget. Then, she would look across the pavement across from where we sat and notice the raindrops splashing into the puddles. She would exclaim, “Look, it’s raining! You can see it in the puddles!”
Mom’s whole face, in fact her whole demeanor lights up when she discovers something unexpected or beautiful. “It’s raining! You can see it in the puddles!”
If you have spent much time with someone who has dementia, you have experienced a person repeating the same statement over and over as if it’s a brand-new discovery. It may sound endearing, but it doesn’t take long to become a bit tiresome. But today I didn’t get frustrated with her. Instead, I noticed something new.
Mom couldn’t see the rain. I don’t know if that has to do with dementia or the poor light of a grey, misty day, or her eyesight, or what. But mom couldn’t see the rain. Still, anytime she looked out across the parking lot where the pavement was puddled with rainwater, she immediately noticed the splashes and could understand that it was raining even though the raindrops were invisible to her. Mom may be deeply affected by dementia, but she can still discover unexpected things. And the unexpected often brings joy!
I worry what it will be like when dementia takes hold of my thoughts, my memories, my abilities. What if I can’t remember something important? What if I can’t reason through steps to solve a problem? What if I can’t see what is plainly obvious in front of me? Those fears are real. Trust me, if I am aware that I have forgotten someone’s name or misplaced a folder of important papers, etc., my heart races, internal stress grows. But today was different. It was odd that mom couldn’t see the rain or perceive that raindrops were falling. Nevertheless, she could still figure it out. She just had to look around and see a puddle of standing water. As soon as she did… then she knew it was raining because the surface was riddled with dancing splashes from countless raindrops. And the surprise of it all made it wonderfully pleasing for her to see.
Mom gave me some hope today. Sure, when I gave her a report on her five grandchildren and what they are all up to, she just shook her head, not believing how old they all are. When we talked about her last visits to Cairo or Statesboro, she had no idea how long it had been. BUT… when she saw the surface of the puddles, she knew it was raining. Mom couldn’t see the rain, but she could see the clues and figure it out. She knew that it was raining. It’s simple, but it amazes me and gives me hope.
Someday, even if I can’t remember my address, how old I am, or where I am living, I pray that I can look around at the world around me and take joy in the small discoveries and the beauty I find there. Mom gave me some hope today. Who knew when I woke up to such a cloudy, grey day, that the rain would be the very thing to bring me hope through mom’s eyes and her voice?
All of us can embrace what mom did today: Notice the puddles. Notice the splashes. Discover wonderful things!