Sunday, January 8, 2012


Anyone who has been or is a caregiver has experienced the ambiguity of Dementia. We live with someone who is normal and who then, when we relax into complacency, delivers an unreasonable tirade. One minute they are calm and the next kick us in the face as we bend over to assist at the toilet.

Grace was both normal and imbalanced. She was present in her chair but simultaneously absent from reasonable conversation. She could express preference, lapse into vacancy, and strike out in anger, all within minutes of each other.

Years ago we inherited an outside, calico cat who occasionally ventured into the garage. She perched on the stair rail where we would pet her. We quickly learned to lean in, reach for a soft stroking of her back and then raise the arm out of reach of her claws. I would give her two strokes and quit. I accepted the ambiguity of a cat who could tolerate only so much attention.

Dementia from alcoholism will force us to recognize ambiguity as the person ages. We never know if his reactions will be jovial or violent. It is a precarious way to live.

No one enjoys ambiguity. But the people we care for may force us to accept contradiction and paradox. They are both here and gone, a loved one and a stranger, affectionate and dangerous.

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