It Was That Look

Sitting with her, or him, it happens too often.

I ask a question, and I get a look.   That look.   The look of the unknown.  The look that tells me, wordlessly, they don’t know the answer.

The answer to how old are you?

The answer to how many children do you have?

The answer to where did you retire from?

The answer to something about you that you know more assuredly than anyone else?

Often times the look is quickly masked and an answer of some kind is given.   I don’t pay attention to that stuff.  Or those things don’t matter any more.  Or I’ve got kids.  

Or the shrug and the I don’t know.

But it doesn’t erase that look.  That look that reflects their inner thoughts:

Oh my God!  I don’t know!   

I am not stupid!

You are not taking me out of my home!

I am terrified of you!

I am horrified I am losing myself!

I hate that look.  I hate that moment.  I hate that they feel exposed.  I hate that there is such horror.

I see those eyes.  Those eyes that saw them through childhood, and youth, and saw them into becoming who they are.  And now, those eyes show me, what they can’t see any more.

I’ve watched as he, or she, recognizes for a moment-again-that they are losing.  They are losing themselves.

I’ve watched, as one look, outlines a fear unknown to me.

And a fear I hope to never know.

I don’t ever want to look at my child, my friend, my husband-and give them that look.


42 thoughts on “It Was That Look

  1. I think that transitional moment when the realisation comes that we are ‘losing it’ must be the most frightening stage of the slide into dementia


  2. That was powerful Colleen and so scary. Lord it must be hard to do what you do daily. I’m glad there are kind and caring folks like yourself who can help those in need make that terrible transition from awareness to the sure knowledge they no longer remember.


  3. I hate that season of life. I remember seeing it on my grandma and hated it. The last word I ever heard her speak was thank you. It is burned into my memory. She was such a strong woman and it so reduced her. I hope some day to see her again and her eyes are sparkling as they always were. I know that would be her wish also. A powerful post.


  4. As I read this, I think of the time before the look, when the person knew something was wrong. How scary had that been knowing the worst was yet to come. I pray I don’t ever share that look for my family. ❤ ❤ ❤


    • Me too Tess. That’s the look I mean, the one where they know something is wrong, and they can’t stop it or change it. It’s so scary to think about. ❤ I share that prayer with you.


  5. Wow. You summed that up only as you can, Colleen. But the ones you talk to are fortunate to see, despite their confusion and terror, that they are being spoken to by a kind, caring fellow human being.


    • I’m sorry you and your mom experienced this. But, yes, I would think there was some blessing in the laughter. I’ve seen some dementia’s where the person is so angry and the family suffers watching the change. None of it is good. But I admire those who find the blessings and provide the love unconditionally. Forever.


  6. That is by far the most heart breaking look I’ve ever seen. It is so easy to see the fear and feeling of helplessness in their eyes. My best and most saddening days were while working in a local Alzheimer’s unit. Such wonderful and amazing people, so lost and scared….and oftentimes lonely. My heart breaks for them. Thank you for having and showing so much compassion.


    • Thank you for sharing that MWAI. To sit with someone who recognizes their own losses, and what’s coming, and not be able to help them …. My chest gets hollowed out. I can’t imagine it.


  7. Hits close to home, but I am glad you are the one there for them. I find it comforting knowing there are people like you who help them. Atill, I do not like the look either, and likewise hope I never give it to anyone.


  8. It is hard and yet, I would rather be with my Mom in her stage of dementia than lose her, Colleen. I do recognize this is not a pleasant way to have a parent but I worked 4 years at a nursing home and developed the same way you handle toddlers, “deflecting” and “sidetracking.” Love conquers all things. ❤


    • Deflecting and redirecting are wonderful assets to helping family live with this. For some it is so difficult to do….they only ‘see’ the person they’ve always known and can’t absorb the loss of the person.


  9. I think you’ve described a moment that terrifies us all, whether we think of ourselves or a loved one. I felt myself tense up just reading your description of that fear, Colleen.


  10. I have seen this fear many times, the search for a response that makes sense but slips away. This is so moving Colleen, beautifully written.


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