Wading Barefoot

Rediscovering my barefoot-self

In the mirror

I know I’ve been remiss in keeping up with my blog – after all, I was so excited to begin this. No excuses though, I must make a more concerted effort to water what I’ve planted.

To that end I thought I’d share something with you that delighted me and made me feel less anxious about the possibility of suffering some type of dementia as I age. I watched my mother go through this and it was tough on many levels. First, she was my mother and the strongest woman I’d ever met. It shook me to think that she would ever crumble, but the reality of her declining mental status crept up on me in little ways at first. She needed help with medication reminders and sometimes the day of the week. One afternoon she called me quite angry and asked me to come over and remove the dog that got in her house, so I headed over. When I arrived it was clear there was no dog but she was frantic and told me that a large dog was under the bed growling at her. Inside me at that moment there was a little tug of war. On the one hand, my mind says there is obviously no dog but my heart said look anyway. I bent over and lifted the spread and genuinely looked for the dog. All I could remember was how many times she looked under my bed when I was little.

These kinds of things upset her. She was frustrated with herself and the very real fear that she was slowly failing mentally. She was a very proud and modest woman and in the end she was dressed and bathed and fed by strangers. ~ I don’t really mean ‘strangers’, they were the staff (mostly nuns) at the nursing home where she lived briefly before she died. They were wonderful to her.

I too worry about my own future. Will I slowly unravel like my mother, looking in the eyes of my children and not knowing who they are? How will they hold up if that happens? Because, I can promise you that it kicks really hard when your mother genuinely doesn’t remember you.

My kids are kind and sensitive people and I am sure that if I wind up like mom, saying there’s a dog under my bed, they will just go look and help me keep my dignity too. I hope they know that the best gift they can give me is a patient ear, I have a feeling I’ll be repeating myself all the time.

So, back to the part that delighted me:
I was discussing this topic with my oldest, Victoria and I asked her what she would do, how she would handle this. Her response really took me by surprise. Without missing a beat she said, “I’ll just tell you stories. That will give you something to think about.” She said that depending on how I was feeling she would make up colorful memories for me to ruminate about. Knowing Victoria I am sure the stories will be pretty fantastic and I think the goal will be for me to catch on that she’s pulling my leg. Thank you Victoria, I feel much better knowing you have a plan.

© Kathleen Ryan-McCullough, 2012

May 22, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Kate, you have such a way with words. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic. It reminds me that I will need to dialog with my own offspring about this possibility.
    Hopefully we’ll both be fortunate enough to avoid in large measure the fate that overtook each of our mothers.

    Comment by Duke | May 22, 2012 | Reply

    • Duke,
      I find it hard to fathom how fast the time has passed. I can almost feel it as it whizzes past me, leaving both wrinkles and memories in its wake. You and I have been blessed with foresight and I’m happy to see that we are both going to make the most out of that.
      Thank you for enjoying my blog so much, this makes me very happy.

      Comment by wadingbarefoot | May 22, 2012 | Reply

  2. I missed not knowing my grandmother because, since I was old enough to have a relationship with her, I was told that she wouldn’t know who I was anyway. I’m not sure how true that is, and I regret not reaching out to her. Thanks for sharing the dog story and for being kind enough to look under the bed. I’d love to hear more stories about Ester if you ever have a chance to share them.

    Comment by lauratidwell | May 23, 2012 | Reply

    • Laura,
      Its wonderful to hear from you and thank you for taking the time to comment. Your grandmother didn’t really become significantly confused until about 1997; prior to that she had moments of confusion but they came and went. For as long as I can remember she had framed photographs of you and your sister and brothers prominently displayed along with her other grandchildren. She proudly showed all of you to every visitor (even her landlady). She loved you very much and often talked about you! I don’t know if that helps you or not, I hope it does. Mom and your dad were much alike; she knew he needed space and time, and didn’t begrudge his choices. In fact she was more like your dad than any of her other children. They were very close and stayed in touch over they years as best they could. He came to see her just a month of so before she died. Funny, she remembered him even when she couldn’t recognize anyone else.
      I am so looking forward to seeing you, I hope you’re able to make it out here one of these days. Until then, it’s wonderful to have you in my life, thank you.

      Comment by wadingbarefoot | May 23, 2012 | Reply

  3. Anytime, mom!
    I love you!

    Comment by Victoria | May 23, 2012 | Reply

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