On Saturday, my autistic brother in law, "Bil" visited his elderly mother, who is now in a long term care facility. My husband and I brought "Bil" there.
The visit started as it normally does. Bil comes into the room, looks at his Mom just long enough to establish she is there, and takes off to another part of the semi-private room. Normally, her roommate spends the entire day outside her room, so there is some privacy, and Bil heads for the recliner next to the roommate's bed.
This time, though, my mother in law wanted to talk.
"Come here, Bil" she instructed several times. He did, almost reluctantly, as we tried to get some idea of what he had done recently. More than anything, his mother just wanted to know that he is well, and happy.
But it's like pulling teeth (and, as a literal thinker, if I said that to Bil, he would run away, terrified that someone wanted to pull his teeth out) sometimes, to find out things from Bil. He's not much of a talker. Even when he talks about things he likes, he isn't a man of many words.
My mother in law loves her flowers. We brought her some. She asked, several times in succession, what they were. Patiently, I told her several times what they were.
Then she asked Bil about the Belmont Stakes race that was taking place later that afternoon. What channel was it on? And several minutes later ,what channel was it on? And Bil answered her each time.
It's impossible to know what Bil is thinking of, as he watches his Mom sink into dementia. She is in the early stages, and seemed to be pretty alert today. But so much of us is our memories - I can see it on days when she isn't quite there, and I know it will only get worse.
What will happen when she doesn't remember who any of us are? What are we without our memories?
What happens to us when our memories are lost? When we are surrounded by strangers who are really our loved ones?
What makes "us" us? And, since "Bil" is younger than my husband and his other brother, will he go through this again and again, as his two male sibs age
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