“I collect pretty things”

mom alzheimers

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“I don’t know why I have all these things,” she said.  “I guess I just like to collect pretty things, anything at all that is pretty.  I just like them.”

Mom is aging.  Mom is losing memories to that dreaded disease {we can barely whisper it, dementia}, like the autumn tree loses leaves, softly, quietly ~ leaf begins its’ descent, down-down, a swirl and a sudden swoop upward, then, swept away in the wind, settling in a crevice on the earth’s floor.

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And she has a drawer, or two…maybe 4 in which she has stored photographs and newspaper articles and pictures of puppies and magazine tear-outs of scroll-y art which she plans to glue to an envelope or piece of paper for writing lovely, loving letters to some one she cares about.

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“I just wanna take pictures of the whole world.”   -Norma Jean, my mamala. November 2013

Some of us wish to “help her clean” those drawers, to lighten her load by getting rid of things and scraps we are certain she doesn’t really need.  I start to offer my help, I resist this urge.  Because despite the diminishing certainty in her brain,  and that facts and details are being swept out to a sea of forgetfulness (how very God-like, really, isn’t it?), these notes and papers and pictures and print-outs are all important to her, her tangible hold and her physical memory.  She wants them, needs them, she desperately clings to the information they hold for her.

I resist my urge to purge on her behalf. Instead, I let her pull them out again to recount the story of why she loves each one and her plans for what she’ll do with them. “I’m going to make a book of cars for Hunter to read to Kai. And this is a cartoon I thought Ronnie May would find so funny. Oh – look, here is my pattern for those Christmas-card trees I’ve been wanting to make…

I note something very new on this visit: I have a terrible time getting her to go for walks – this woman who has always loved outdoor activity and horseshoes and playing baseball and lassoing imaginary cattle.  Fear is the cruelest part.  She fears the walks on uneven surfaces because of the falls of the past year.  But when finally I get her there, her most vibrant, youthful, excited self shows up to investigate the woods and explore the paths with utter abandon and childlike enthusiasm. She out corn-holed both dad and me, twice! And she’d have kept throwing those corn-filled bags if night hadn’t fallen fully.

For my mamala is losing pieces and snippets

{a few leaves flutter to the ground around us on our walk}.

She is missing moments and words are escaping her

{a breeze – then swirls of yellow leaves swish and swoop finally making their way to the ground}.  There they go–

{the larger Elm and scarlet Maple leaves whisper as they pass us falling to the earth}

and simple tasks and skills slowly, slowly falling down.  Leaves flutter toward our feet {gravity is winning} catching the late day sun and something

 ~{a memory, a knowing} ~

once so sure, falls with them.

Then in a sudden flash of exuberance, “Oh look at that leaf, will you?” she’ll ask, and she picks it up from the ground and with it comes a vibrant, razor-sharp recollection.  And I’ll hear a story with detail-complete clarity and accuracy, but one I may never hear again – because she’ll remember it no more.

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She sometimes knows with utter and complete understanding, and seconds later is completely unaware that it is so.  And I have no desire to rush this process.  For whatever she loves, I will love.  Whatever brings joy to her heart, I will find joy in, through her eyes, Please help me with that, Lord.  Help me not to rush these days and these “silly things” she collects with child-like delight. Oh God, help me hold her most valuable treasures for her, as she loses the strength to do so…

She makes me laugh, her sweetness.

An assortment of colorful leaves falls from her handbag as I help her search for her wallet.  Because.  They are pretty.

“That’s just me, I reckon. I collect pretty things.”

This morning, rising early, I saw her on her back deck which faces the eastern-sky, just as the sun was rising and flickering through the tree branches which have formed a black lace as they have started to bare.  Beyond the expanse of grass, a wooded area where she daily enjoys the deer family as they graze, the sun began to emerge, finally exploding into bright light just above the trees.   It is where she goes to watch and wait for the return of Christ each morning.  I stood in the shadows, on this morning, and watched her worship, watched her raise her arms to welcome the day, to tell the Lord she looks for His return.  Every part of her open, loving heart belongs to the One she longs for…

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” Revelation 22.17

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True story: {she is this very second showing me her biggest, prettiest Maple leaf, making sure I know all the reasons it is as beautiful and special as she thinks it is}…and I look at gentle and animated, piercing-blue eyes with a halo of ever-whitening hair, and I say yes, so beautiful, mamaladeeply beautiful, for so she is.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus…my mama is looking for You. And that, she does not forget.

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NOTE 10.28.15:: I just wrote about my recent trip to visit my mom and mentioned the dreaded “A” word for the first time (Alzheimer’s Disease) on this blog.  You may read about it HERE

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