Children of alcoholics smell anxiety like a cat smells a dog. Their life depends on reading the people they depend on.
Though hard of hearing with her thought processes clouded by her dementia, Geraldine will wake up when someone else experiences distress. From her space she will offer “I’m sorry” without being involved in the situation. We offer to roll her to her room so she can put on lipstick. She knows she is being removed and she automatically says, “I’m so dumb.”
The wind chime of Geraldine’s family of origin was a jumbled kaleidoscope of sharp edges and unexplained change. There was a constant buzz of anxiety whenever her father showed up at the house. Would he be happy? Angry? Would he punish whoever unwittingly crossed his path? When Dad began to vibrate, everyone suffered.
Geraldine married a man just like dear old dad. We usually do because we search out the same level of coping that we grew up with. We are comfortable with what we know. After a tumultuous year her mother moved in and her husband moved out.
Forty years later her mind returns her to the reality of her youth. Knowing that reality helps us transition her to love and laughter in the present.