This morning, I visited my mother-in-law...well, Rick's mom... I guess she stopped being my mother-in-law when my marriage ended by death, even though it wasn't a personal choice. She held my hand and told me the exact same things she always tells me when I see her:
"I'm angry at God."
"I can't believe my Ricky is dead. I wish it was me instead."
"You are too young and cute to be alone. I hope you get married again."
"I feel so sorry for you, my little girl."
I tell her not to be sorry for me. I tell her I'm doing great. I tell her life isn't fair, but we choose our attitudes.
She is a blend of tragic and hilarious. She repeats herself - because of her dementia - and usually by the end of my visit I'm blushing with embarrassment from all the cute things she says about my appearance and/or holding back tears from remembering the day I had to tell her that her son was dead. Today, she couldn't wrap her head around the fact that Rick has been dead for almost 10 months. To her, it still seems fresh every morning. Not fresh as though it happened yesterday, but not as old as 9.5 months either.
She remembers to ask me how my cats are. She remembers my parents live close by. She knows the day of the week when I'm there, because I almost always come on a Saturday. She always tells me to find a good man to take care of me and to bring him to meet her. She tells me I deserve to be happy again. She talks about the past. Then she does it all over again. Asks the same questions. States the same topics of conversation.
I try to think of things to tell her that are exciting. I talk to her about my nieces, my job, the wedding I'm in, the weekend trips I make to my friends' homes in Philadelphia or Connecticut, my decision to sell my house. I try.
She passes her time in her private room at an Assisted Living Home, addicted to chocolate and Coca-Cola. I know she is content. I know she is well cared for. I know she doesn't need anything. She is always happy to see me...a familiar face and a link to her dead son.
I help her fix her hair, I help her use her walker to the dining room, I give her a hug and a kiss good bye, I tell her I love her. "I love you," she always says when I leave, "and don't worry, you don't have to come see me if you have other things to do sometimes." But I try. I try.