When there are fewer and fewer ways to communicate, we rely on eyes. And touch. Somehow, dementia clears away all that was extraneous in our relationship - the tense silences, the searching for something to say, a mother, walking on eggshells afraid – nay convinced – that she will somehow offend her daughter by asking the wrong question by being supportive in the “wrong” way. Now, as a mother of a young adult daughter, I wish I could tell her: Mom, I understand now. And I am sorry.

Now that there is so little left, there is so much left too, but a different kind of much. Dementia leaves very little of the trappings – the ungainly human attempts to connect that mothers and daughters are heir to. What is left now; smiles, touches, a fork to her willing mouth. Sometimes a wink.

Sometimes I think that the soul is happier with dementia than is the ego, or any other part of us. The soul can speak through its window, the eye. It can feel through physical contact. Small talk is both foreign and the only means of speaking to one another. “How are you?” I ask her countless times in an hour. Her answer varies at each query. Her answer does not matter. The touch of communication, the connection, does. That is all there is, and it is enough.

As more and more losses occur, more and more failings and leavings take place, how will I find a way to connect to her?Our souls will teach us how. I am an unwilling student but a willing daughter. Dementia has gifts and one of them is these deeper ways to connect without meaningful words. I am still with you, Mom. I am never leaving you in the soul ways, the important ways. And even though I wish I could ask you detailed questions – or really any questions - my soul is happy because it has found you.

Jennifer Maher