Just after Christmas, my 91-year old mother collapsed and disappeared into the fog of dementia, suddenly unreachable despite her body being still alive, and still here. And I began a long, slow submersion into grief that seemed, at times, to be dragging me down into the darkness where my mother had gone. Because she was alive, it seemed completely wrong to mourn for my missing mother.
So I became busy instead. I stepped in and became the advocate for her care, the organizer of her visitors, the person whom her doctors and nurses called first rather than my father who was arguably more grief-stricken than me. The busyness helped fill my waking hours with calendars, discussions about care, creating and managing lists of tasks, writing detailed emails to my siblings and nephews. It also intruded on my nights, waking me up with sudden jolts of fear that I had forgotten something important that I needed to look into right that very minute. I worried that mom was inside herself, able to think clearly, but unable to communicate. I wanted someone to tell me how she felt, what she wanted.