Thursday, October 11, 2007

Cutting emotions

I stare at the scissors in my hand, awash with nostalgia and sadness.

The same pair of scissors that I had used to cut my dad's hair for the last ten years of his life. A once a month affair that I had looked forward to then because it was always a pleasure to cut my dad's hair.

When dad had to be put on dialysis after his kidneys failed, he fell into depression for a period of time and he didn't feel up to venturing out of the house for quite a long while. That's how I ended up being his resident barber and stayed that way until the end of his life.

I had, during my teenage years, picked up an interest in hair cutting by observing how it was done every time I had my hair cut professionally. And later, I picked up more tips by spending my school holidays at a cousin's hair-dressing salon. I don't know why I'm fascinated by it - perhaps I fancied myself having a hidden artistic streak.

No one actually taught me how to do it. Somehow, I had so much self-confidence in my ability to grasp the fine art just by my observations that my dad gamely allowed me to snip his hair after I bought my first and only "professional" pair of scissors. Well, it was a pretty easy task with my dad's almost balding pate but still he didn't want to risk it, instead he held a mirror in front of him and guided me to prevent from snipping off too much to his liking. The end result was a satisfying and bonding experience for both of us.

During the years when I started working in KL, I rarely had the opportunity to cut my dad's hair because I only got to see him on some weekends when I could go back home. And when I got married and had babies of my own, my life became busier and I used those scissors to trim my kids’ hair during their early years.

So, staring at the scissors in my hand, I'm awash with all those memories of more than 10 years ago. I could almost smell my dad's presence beside me.

But the person sitting in front of me now is not my dad. Instead, it's my mom.

My mom is not the easiest person to live with and coupled with my personality, it's an understatement to say we couldn't understand each other. And dad made things all the more complicated because he had the softest spot for me right from the moment I was born.

Since the beginning of this year, mom's dementia had gotten worse to the point that her regular visits to the hairdresser has proven too stressful for us. Which is why I decided I might as well manage her grooming needs as best as I can.

And the irony is that she is far happier to have me cut her hair these days. In fact, she has strangely developed a childish need to cling to me whenever I see her. And when I'm not around her, she'd bombard me with countless telephone calls just to hear my voice. Sometimes I get the feeling that with my dad no longer around, she started to view me from a different perspective.

Dementia had, thankfully, not affected mom's overall health but it had robbed her of logic and comprehension. And unfortunately for all of us, it amplified the very worst in her too. I'm still finding it rather hard to deal with her sudden affections and neediness for attention 24/7 despite knowing that it is part of the symptoms of this disease that's slowly but surely robbing her of the ability to find peace and contentment in her life now.

And so, with scissors in hand, I started to tidy up her hair while she fidgetted constantly in her seat. She carried on a one-way conversation of the usual stuff that upsets her at home. That’s how our conversations go these days, she’ll rattle on and on not hearing a word of what I say in reply.

There's a sense of deep sadness in my heart as I watched her snipped hair drift down to her shoulders and onto the ground.

I felt as if I had come full circle.



Anonymous mumsgather said...

My dad has dementia too. Its really hard losing someone you love to dementia. Its like watching them slowly drift away from you. Dad is the opposite of your mum. When previously chatty he is now very quiet so that its hard to carry on any conversations with him as he replies with a confused Yes or No but there are good days where he is back to his old self. :)

12/10/07 10:11  
Blogger Helen said...

When I read this post, I can understand how you're feeling. I am currently still living with my parents (24/7) and while they get along fine with me, they are always at ends with each other.

I got to read up more on dementia. For all I know, my mother too is the ultimate attention seeker. She does not get along with my father, she now pour her total affection onto my son and husband.

It's ironic my mother is the 3rd person in my marriage. She dotes and cling onto my husband whenever he's back on weekends.

All the best to you and it's nice to hear a more personal anak merdeka..:-P

12/10/07 16:15  
Blogger zewt said...

it is such a painful thing to watch our loved ones suffer...

this week has been quite sad as i read many tragic news around the blogosphere... life is indeed fragile...

15/10/07 14:29  

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