A few weeks ago, I had a nightmare.
In it, I was in a house with my mother and my father. I wanted to get something from the upstairs, but I was so tired that I could only crawl up the white painted steps. (Note: I have never lived in a place with white painted steps.) As I neared the top, Molly the Macaw came waddling around the corner, and as she usually does in real life, began coming toward me.
As I do in real life, I tried to get away from her, but slid down the stairs. She landed on me, and I kept trying to keep my face covered while she flapped and squawked. I shouted for my mother to help me, over and over, but she just kept on doing whatever she was doing in the kitchen.
Finally, I was able to get an arm under the bird and fling her away from me. I scrambled to my feet, staggered over to my mother and shouted at her. "Why didn't you help me? Why didn't you help me?"
She turned to me, looked down her nose, and said, "Because I don't like you." I raised my hand to crack her across the face, but all she said was, "You can't hit me."
Indeed, she was right. In the dream I knew I could never hit her, and just turned away, sick at heart because my mother hadn't really loved me at all. I'd been loving someone who didn't love me back. And my father, in the background, just shrugged, as if to say he didn't care about it at all.
Honestly, in the dream, it felt like my heart was being torn into pieces. Even after I woke up from the dream, I hurt inside, and shed a couple tears.
Now, a person could be miserable for days after a dream like that, even to the point of being afraid to fall asleep in case they dreamt something like that again. But I do know something about dreams, and I believe that you have to tackle them head on sometimes, to find out what's actually lurking in your subconscious.
The parrot as fear is a no-brainer: I'm scared as hell of that bird in real life, and every time she screeches it feels like someone put a chainsaw to my spine. Perfect symbol of a fear from which I need to be saved, right? But what is it that I'm afraid of, that my own mother won't help me overcome, and just turns away from me instead, disdaining me? And how could I be that angry at her, that I would (as I never did in life) raise my hand against her?
Any guesses? Oh, right. Alzheimer's.
And with that realization, I understood that at some level in my subconscious, she should still be the Mom I knew growing up: fierce, fearless, vibrant. She should have been able to surmount Alzheimer's! But instead, she has drifted away on the tide of forgetfulness, not even looking back. On that deep and cloudy level of my mind, I have anger at her for leaving me behind, no longer remembering me. And Dad, oh, Dad, where have you been while her disease has been crippling her, and breaking my heart?
I was able to find peace in understanding the dream, and I know she loved me. She didn't always know the best way to love me, but I never doubted that she did.
This afternoon the nursing home called me. Mom's foot is ...'better' ... but she is not. Some new phase of the disease has kicked in, and she forgot how to feed herself, forgot how to swallow after a bite of food. Uncomprehending, she just spit out her food and couldn't figure out what she was supposed to be doing with it. For the last three or four days, she hasn't wanted or tried to eat or drink anything, too weak to stand.
The nurse said they would put her on an IV to see if rehydration would "perk her up" -- but warned me that if there wasn't a big change in the next couple days, they'd be calling me again to discuss ... "making her comfortable." That means, in real life, allowing her to die.
I know that. I knew from the beginning that Alzheimer's is terminal. But my heart still thinks ... well, you know.