I like maps that have a little figure or symbol that says “You are here”. It’s much easier for me to see where I am going, if I know where I am starting from. The maps in large malls are especially important, because they help me find shoe stores. Just get me to the shoes, and I am a happy camper. I wish I could print a map that showed me where I parked! Timelines of historical events are also good visuals for me. Besides the War of 1812, I am a little fuzzy on the “when” of historical events. My own life timeline could show me the order of events in my lifetime. and how I got to 63 years old. I wonder with so many events each year, how one dot can hold it all.
Time and place are ways I use to locate my lost self. For my first 28 years I lived in Iowa, but on May 13, 1980 I moved to Fort Collins. The “here” in “You are here.” changed from Iowa to Colorado, so 5/13/1980 is a big dot on my timeline. Colorado is my home, but I still say I am going “home” to Iowa for a visit. Before and after…. Before October 7, 1980, another big dot on my timeline, I was not anyone’s mother. On 10/7/1980, I became my son Tyler’s mother. My emotional life timeline is a whole different animal, and seems independent of time and place. Where is “home” in my heart, and how old do I feel? When did I first feel like a mother? My emotions are messy and unruly, and I can’t locate them on a map or timeline. I feel lost and decide to visit Roger.
Roger does not know what day it is or where he is at. He can’t read a clock or calendar, and points on a map are just points. His dementia makes time and place fluid, and I don’t try to orient him to reality. We stick to the basics, like is it cloudy or sunny, warm or cold, or is he hungry or not hungry, tired or not tired. These questions help to anchor him, and as I answer these questions for myself, life gets very simple and crystal clear. I have a large framed poster above my mantle that has a big bullseye on it and the words: “You are here, be present”. Roger is my time and place. I am here and present.