photo by ellen reitman.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

dementia as a form of meditation.

or: meditation as a form of dementia.

over dinner one night at my ninety-four-year-old dad's favourite restaurant, he pretty much complained about every aspect of his situation. it was not unusual. and i suppose i didn't help much. "you know what your problem is?," i said. he looked at me over his glasses suspiciously. "your problem is you're not senile." "what the hell does that mean?," he barked. "well," i continued, "if you would just get a bit of dementia happening these things wouldn't bother you so much." i thought that was incredibly funny, but he just remarked absently: "oh you think you're so damn smart," as he turned his attention to what was left of his dinner.

there was, of course, a grain of truth to my bad joke. he was sharp as a whip, a highly intelligent, relatively good-natured man who had become crankier and crankier as he observed clearly his body and his quality of life deteriorating. my old mom, on the other hand, a lady who nobody could say was good-natured, had gone exactly the other way in her last few years and i reminded dad of that.

mom had been a force of nature, and not the classic benevolent nurturing mother-nature ideal. she was more like the wild outta control hurricane ripping through the trailer park type. one learned to cope. i gained an innate ability to remain vigilant, ready to grab the family mutt and run from the storm without much advance notice. from early on i learned how to instantly evacuate to a shelter, a place of safety within myself. i was, in effect, well suited to the art and science of meditation.

however, by the time i returned to canada, i was taken aback to find mom rather more subdued than i remembered. to say she had become sweet would be overstating the fact. but, she was certainly not so sour. i could actually reason with her, a bit, even joke with her upon occassion. she had the early stages of dementia by then, mostly confined to the apartment and my main job was to buy her cigarettes.

mom would call me in wakefield and, with a voice that could raise the dead, she'd say she was missing me. loosely translated, it meant she was running out of her beloved 'benson and hedges'. dad refused to buy them because, at mom's age of eighty-six and having smoked since she was around four, dad decided it was bad for her health. so i had to do it. i'd drive all the way just to purchase a few cartons for her. i believe a carton of the stuff cost around ninety bucks by then and mom would insist on paying me back each time by lovingly pressing a toony into my hand. i didn't mind. she was sincerely grateful.

there were times then when we would sit quietly together without really doing anything. it was just such a welcomed contrast to my childhood with her. mom would smoke. i'd try to breathe. dad would be in his room reading the paper. and one time she smiled over at me and said: "maybe meditation makes you the same as me."

No comments :

Post a Comment