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(c) 2015 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2015 Sherman Lambert

Last night’s nightmare that woke me was about . . . raccoons? I guess Disney didn’t succeed after all in teaching me that those critters were adorable—sorry, Pocahontas, but your little masked sidekick is not welcome in my dreams—or my yard!

Raccoons are definitely roaming our neighborhood at night. Not sure if they’ve made it into our back yard or not, but in my dream they were wandering around just about everywhere back there. Little ones, medium-sized ones, big ones—on the walls of the house, on the picnic table, on the ground—and their beady little eyes gleamed in the dark of night as I tried to keep them from approaching me.

Dreammoods.com says: (t)o see a raccoon in your dream signifies deceit and thievery. You are not being completely honest in some situation. Alternatively, the dream suggests that you are hiding something. You are keeping a secret.

Right—it’s all about me, not the possibility that raccoons could figure out how to access our costly stash of premium dog food, harm our dogs, and/or bite us. I’m being honest when I say I neither want our dogs to be hurt or require expensive surgeries nor do I want to go through that series of rabies shots in my ample mid-section, thank you very much. Plus, we just bought two 26-pound bags of food for our dogs and our daughter got 15 pounds for her pup.

I’m not keeping a secret—I’m just paranoid. However, as my husband likes to say, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. They, in this case, relates to those critters I saw slinking away in the neighbors’ bushes or the guy who watched us from the nearby sewer drain as we walked our dogs. None has tried to get me—that I know of—so far.

When I woke in the dark of night, I felt relieved to find myself in bed and not outside my house. Not saying that I was rattled or anything, but after I grabbed a sip of water from the glass I keep for that purpose in the kitchen, I set it down on the edge of the counter and heard it spill over the counter before it fell to the floor. Of course, I poured that water right into my pillbox with the huge (and expensive) supplements I take daily. Despite the hour, I threw on the light in order to save my supplements and clean as best I could, trying not to wake myself up more than I already was, thanks to the pounding of my heart and my overactive imagination.

Were there eyes glowing outside my darkened windows, beckoning me to test out my dream? Don’t know and didn’t look—just got myself back under the covers where I tried really hard not to think of those rabies shots while praying my next dreams would be raccoon-free—which I think they were.

If I keep this kind of thinking up, I’ll be screaming if someone asks me to watch Pocahontas. Sadly, it is no secret that the power of suggestion works a little bit too easily for me. For this reason, I no longer watch the news and horror movies. And now, Disney, it seems.

If you want me, I’ll just be hiding under my blankets.

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(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

Though I have the occasional nightmare, what I have more frequently are what I call stress dreams—dreams that are more like nighttime anxieties on daytime themes. Mostly I dream of not getting to places on time or of misplacing important items or not being able to find where I’m supposed to go—you know, things like missing flights or not being able to find my classroom or misplacing whatever it is I need to do what comes next. I’ve always made my flights and found my classrooms, and even though I have misplaced things from time to time, still my days are not nearly as stressful as these dreams. I’ve never thought of these dreams as anything more than an over amplification of my desires to be responsible—until today.

Last night’s dream was slightly different because it involved experiencing these sorts of anxieties while visiting a dementia care center. As I shared the dream with my friend Lenny who, like me, lost her mother to Alzheimer’s, and who, unlike me, is also guiding a father with dementia, she said, “Oh my gosh—you just got an insight into what people with dementia must be thinking and feeling.”

Talk about raising the stress level on my lifelong stress dreams. But really, with that insight, no wonder I found last night’s dream particularly upsetting—and it wasn’t even about my having dementia.

What the dream did do was bring me back to those days when my mother was trapped in her increasingly unreliable mind—and essentially trapped in her care facility. Now mind you, this was the place where the well-designed purpose-built setting and the wonderful caregivers helped her to relax into where she was and make it her home. She loved being around the people who provided her care and, unlike so many, did not need to be coaxed into eating the well-cooked meals. Though I can’t speak for how she felt about the betrayal of her own mind, I can say that she seemed much calmer and lost much of her agitation in that safe space. This, however, was not true of everyone.

When you visit your loved ones in those settings, you begin to know and reach out to the other residents. Often you thank God that it isn’t your mother who knows her name but who has no idea how to find her room—every time you visit. Or that it isn’t your mother who worries out loud about “being naughty” and who begs for forgiveness in one breath and then tells you you are going to hell in the next. Thank goodness there are others who have more good moments than bad.

When your mother’s music is silenced, you sing hymns with someone else’s mother. You listen to another woman describe how the Vienna of her youth is the only place where you can find the best schnitzel. You know to be thankful when the woman who has not been very nice to your mother all of a sudden relaxes and smiles—because your teenaged son has such nice hair. You do your best to meet these people in their realities—unless, of course, that involves agreeing that there can be no redemption for you or the other residents.

The amazing thing is that after awhile you start to lose much of your fear of visiting your mother in this condition in that place where everyone is lost or has lost something. You are in awe of the love and kindness shown by those who work with the lost day in and day out. And, if your mother only sleeps while you hold her hand, you chat with the other residents and the staff who also have social needs.

So my dream didn’t exactly start out stressful. I talked to residents and provided help, if needed. Staff members came out and said, “I haven’t seen you in awhile.” Then my mom found me—she was wearing that pink shirt of hers—not that pink was her color, but no doubt she had bought it because it was on sale. We sat together, me with my arms around her, as if she were a child, and rested into one another. Then she left to take dinner with the other residents.

That’s when the stress began. Where was the bathroom? Did they change the colors on each residential section or had they also remodeled them? I had to leave, but first needed to put away all the supplies I had pulled out. Plus, where did they all belong? And then where was the bag I brought with me? Where did I leave it and did one of the “shoppers” (what people with dementia are called when they tend to take off with things that don’t belong to them) find it? And if I didn’t find the bag, how was I going to get to where I was supposed to be? With so much to worry about, I just couldn’t find my way to the door even though it was way past time to leave.

Oh, Lenny was right—those must be the sorts of thoughts that run through the minds of those with dementia. What a nightmare for them.

Thank goodness I was only dreaming—let this be a wake-up call to live well now and to quit stressing out over minor details.

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