Denial. We’ve all heard jokes about the river.
Like other rivers, Denial can be hardened into ice, and it can be dispersed into mist. Like vampires: shape-shifting, blood-sucking.
As caregiver, I crashed into a wall of that ice. Dad’s sisters were encased in it, admitting only that I was a worrier, not that their brother’s brain was slowly dying and taking him — and me — with it. Dementia? I was over-reacting; there was nothing seriously wrong with Dad. Of course. And when one of those sisters asked which end of the phone to talk into, there was nothing seriously wrong with her either. Of course.
Both my parents were slipping away, each noting behavioral changes in the other but never in the self. The tension between reality and delusion was subtle and pervasive: the mist. As caregiver, I breathed that mist and choked; it had no oxygen.
Denial. “He just had a bad day.” “It’s his medicines.” “We all forget things!” “Why the hell should I talk to the doctor about driving?” “I didn’t forget — you never told me!”
Leeches live in that river; they all belong to the phylum Blame. They slither out to find the caregiver, then suck life from her spirit. There must be an explanation for the frightening things happening; it can’t be dementia so it must be the caregiver, the unlucky one who must face reality and be blamed for doing so.
Caregivers do not laugh at jokes about the river.