I got to spend time with my mamala for her birthday. She is wonderful and she is perfect. And she is worried and fearful that something may actually be wrong, or maybe people just think something is wrong and she is perfectly fine. Either way, she is bothered.
I wasn’t able to make her laugh as much this visit. Making her laugh has been my focus for the past few years, because it is such good medicine. We laughed this visit, but less. If I’m wry or sarcastic, it’s totally lost on her now. I have to be very gentle with teasing or she might think I’m being mean.
And then there was the coffee. She and my dad make half-caf, so when I visit, I always have to bring my own high-powered coffee. For the past couple of years, she had taken to grabbing my coffee, cup after cup every morning, and “doctoring it up” the way she likes: lots of artificial sweetener and a generous swish of milk to lighten it up. I’d sometimes have to make coffee 4 times just to get to enjoy a cup of straight black before she got to it and thought it was hers. It drove me crazy.
But this visit, she never reached for my cup. She didn’t even try. She waited for me to bring hers to her, and then we both had our coffee, the way we each liked it.
You may not think that is a big deal, but I see her changing, backing away, noticing less each time. She is getting smaller, not just physically, but in the way she occupies the atmosphere. I am mourning the parts of her I will never see again. But wait…for a flash, for a split second, there it is again…but then gone.
It really is the long goodbye.
She asked me to teach her to use the TV control. We worked and worked on it. She used to be the techie in the family, she was the one who would hook up the TV to the VCR to the DVD player and whatever else or call Dave for computer help and she’d figure it out. It’s gone now. After 15 minutes, she still could not retain that the on-off button was top, right.
“I used to be able to do this. What in the world is wrong with me? Why can’t I do this anymore? It’s like I am going backwards or something,” she kept saying to me.
It’s the same question she asked about the washer and dryer and her CD player and the telephone. She doesn’t even ask about the gas stove. The microwave is starting to become mysterious, now. Sometimes you put your coffee in and it comes out hot and other times, it doesn’t. Why is that, she is wondering?
I told her gently, very gently. Yes. These medicines are because you were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Yes, your memory problems are part of Alzheimer’s. Do you know very much about that?
It perturbed her. “You mean that is what they are saying I have? That is why they keep giving me these pills?!” as if a diagnosis is an accusation of some sort. She doesn’t like it. But I know she won’t recall it anyway. Tomorrow, she’ll wonder why she “keeps going backwards,” remembering just enough to know she is losing something…
But I told her that she is doing fine, just fine. And then I promised her I would remember for her, so she shouldn’t worry. And she cried. She just fell into my arms and wept.
And I assured her that love isn’t a memory that can be forgotten, that it will always stay up to date, so we would just keep on loving each other. Every little thing will be alright, mamala….
And I just held her for a while.
You can learn more about Alzheimer’s at www.alz.org. There are articles about the signs and symptoms and great resources for caretakers. They remind us that everyone with a brain is at risk for this. And I am passionate about raising awareness because this woman, my sweet mom, is the last person on earth who would deserve to be fighting this battle, but Alzheimer’s doesn’t care. So I hope we can find a cure so my own children and theirs are not left watching the pieces of the people they love fall away, and are not left holding the bag as this insidious disease ravages our nation and the world.
Alzheimer’s is the only disease among the top 10 causes of death in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. – alz.org/facts
#endalz #thelonggoodbye #alzheimers #igopurplefor my mamala…