Oh mom. With a full heart, I sit here and watch you as you sleep. You seem to sleep most of the day away. And you will awaken, and get your bearings. You always check your watch. You don’t think it is working properly because the day sneaks away, as you sleep. Most of your waking hours, you seem so lost. You have spent so much time being angry, and lashing out. Maybe it is because you knew this was coming. That you would enter this stage of a disease that steals you from me, one heartbeat at a time.
I realized our days of shopping, getting coffee and a snack, laughing and being grown women together are over. I wasn’t quite ready. I thought there was a lot more time. I don’t mind caring for you. It is my way of thanking you for the years you cared for me. All the times I was throwing up and you would stroke my forehead, speaking nonsensical mom-isms to me, giving me comfort. The many nights you spent caring for me over fevers and infections – there were so many years dealing with all my sinus issues until we finally, surgically, dealt with them. So many hospital stays and worries over surgeries. You never left my side. You were a difficult mom to grow up with, because you never really were the cuddly, climb-on-your-lap, type of mom. You were not really domestically inclined. But you loved your kids with all you were.
This past weekend, you were only awake for a little more than 4 hours in a day. And you are so confused. You keep thinking when you wake up that it is morning. You sigh a lot. Your shoulders hurt. The Icy Hot is right next to you, but you just cannot see it for some reason. And as you look at me, you smile. And it warms my heart. And it just kills me, too. Because some of the times you do look at me, you don’t see me. I’m not sure who you think you are looking at, but I know in my heart it is not me.
So often you mention your grandparents. You spend most of your days as a little girl, I think. We were watching this movie and you turned to me and said, “When I was a kid, we had a motorcycle.” There were no motorcycles in the movie. There was nothing remotely connected to motorcycles, but it was important for you to share. On another occasion, you were laughing during a particularly gruesome part in a Bourne movie. And I know it was just because you had woken and were still getting your bearings. I even mentioned it to you, as you tried to stand and were all wobbly. You said, “I think my bearings are rusted.” Yeah; rusted. Unfortunately, the rusting is taking place in your brain and I really hurt inside that I cannot help you. I can assist you, but I cannot make this better or make it go away.
Each time we venture into public, I watch you struggle. Today as we walked the Target aisles, you were walking sort of sideways. You were having a hard time maneuvering through the aisles and there was just too much to take in. Too much visual, emotional, and auditory stimulation. We came home and you have had a hard time staying awake. It is like our world is contracting as this disease takes more and more of you away from me. And I can’t stop it.
Alzheimer’s steals those we love from us, one brain cell at a time. It is relentless and non-discriminatory – it chooses whomever it wants. There are all sorts of theories about prevention, but there is no cure. No cure in time for my mom. Hopefully, by the time my kids are elders, there will be no Alzheimer’s. Because I do not want to fade away in front of my children the way my mom is fading in front of me. I understand now, why so many people say, “I can’t be around her (him) because I want to remember them the way they were.” And one of the saddest parts about that statement, is because you stay away, you are no longer in their minds or memories. And it is lose-lose, all the way around.
Tonight my mom told me again that I am her best friend. She hugged my neck. When she was forgetful about what we were discussing, I told her it was okay and that she did not need to fake a memory she did not have. I told her that is what she has me for. Her reply? “Oh my darling daughter, I need you for far more than memories. You are my love and I am so blessed you are my daughter. I love you.” And that makes every ugly moment worth it.