Today was my Mother’s birthday. If she had lived until today, she would have been 90 years old. Unfortunately, she lived the last years of her life with Alzheimer’s. It is a terrible disease because it slowly kills you. It takes away your ability to think, read, play with your grandchildren, dress yourself and connect words into sentences. You die a little every day. You say good-bye a thousand times.
The one thing that my Mom said she never wanted to happen to her was the one thing she had. She never wanted to have Alzheimer’s. She knew what it could do. I was her guardian and primary caregiver for about 12 years. It hurt to see her become dependent. She had always been the “I can do that myself” person. So today I am going to take you down some of the paths we traveled together. First remember that this is a progressive disease. So what she did one month or a few months would then go away. Forever.
My parents had been divorced many years. So Mom was alone. She was a quite lady. She would never do anything that might cause others to look at her. But Alzheimer’s took care of that! We would be eating out at the Dwarf House-one of her favorite places to go-when a heavy person walked by. Mom would say something like “Does she know how fat she is?” Cringe. Somehow her voice carried further when she made comments like that. And trust me, she noticed every person who was large. I had to just move on. There was no point in correcting her because it did no good. Move on.
The other thing that Mom did that was totally unlike her former self was to notice men. She really had a “thing” for men with silver hair. Her favorite phrase was “That is one fine looking man!” Yikes. Y’all this was my Mother who was saying this. She never approached a man but she sure could comment on their handsomeness! This phrase lasted a lot longer than the “fat” stage!
Conversations became easier when I figured out how to talk to her. I would just chat about what she was wearing or the trees (she had another thing for trees) and she would talk. After we exhausted that topic, we would sit quietly for a few minutes and then she would ask the same question and we would talk again about the same thing. And again. And again. And again. I discovered that elaborating on the topic gave us something new to say and made our conversations last a little longer. Every conversation was new to her. She would ask about her neighbor at home-if I had seen her. I always said yes and talked about her cooking. Mom would nod and smile and then we would be silent for a few minutes. Then she would ask again about her neighbor. You don’t fuss-you just go with it.
Mom had never had her nails done. NEVER. She was not a girlie person. So I did her nails and she really liked that. She could not understand how they became colored but she really liked that. I had her hair done. I had it colored. I had her get a permanent. She loved those girlie things. Then that was gone, too. We stopped painting the nails because she thought something was wrong with her nails and tried to pick them off. Moving on again to another stage…..
I can never remember my Mom saying an “ugly” word. Well, we went through that stage, too. The first time it happened was at dinner one night. One of the table members touched her rice and she swore at the lady and then decked her. She had to eat alone for a bit after that. She would become aggressive and swore like a sailor. And she was strong! She could knock you right down. Fortunately, that stage was short.
As you read, you are thinking that this was a pretty grim post. Yes it is. But we spend probably five or six years in these stages. You learn to just go with it. You smile. You hug. You smile some more. You hug. Sometimes you just hold hands and watch television or watch the trees sway in the breeze. I learned a lot during this time. And I learned to sometimes just watch the world go by and enjoy the moment.
Love you Mom!