I visited mom last night…well, late afternoon. She lives in an assisted living home. They eat dinner about 4:30pm and are, seriously, in bed for the night by 6pm or so. They all insist on getting in their PJs about as soon as they take their last bite of dinner. There are five residents there, including mom. She has been there almost 2 years. And she seems so very happy to be there.
Mom has bonded with one of the other ladies who lives there. The two of them are a hoot. They often sit in their chairs, next to one another, and hold hands. It is so sweet. But they love to laugh. They crack each other up. Recently mom was singing and dancing around the other woman’s chair, making her laugh. Life for mom there is good. She is taken care of; she has people her age to hang out with; the food is very good; the home is beautiful and always so clean; mom is always clean and dressed; she goes 2-3 afternoons a week to a senior center. I mean, I could not wish for a better place for her to be living.
Mom has Alzheimer’s and it is getting worse. Yesterday was a bad day. At least the part of the day I was there! I am not sure why. She apparently had a good day, and after we left she had a good night. But when we were there, she cried. She kept asking us to take her home. When we told her it was her home, she very clearly looked at me and said, “I may live here, but this is not my home.” And my heart just clenched. This is such a hard disease.
This is mom and I the day she moved in with us, about 4 years ago. We have both aged a lot in those short years. Mom no longer cares if her clothes match; she prefers slippers to shoes; she does not bother with make-up or even her watch anymore. She sort of just floats through the days. Her hair has always been an issue with her. Always fussing with it, and pushing her hair off her face, fighting the same cowlick that I inherited from her (I quit fighting it and just part my hair on the side…quit the whole bang thing). Not anymore. She even tried to wear her PJ top as a sweater, because it was so soft, not realizing they were pajama tops. Sigh. I hate Alzheimer’s – I really do.
Trying to take care of an elderly family member can be a real challenge. I took care of my paternal Grandmother the last months of her life, in our home. She had her own bathroom connected to her bedroom (it was a mother-in-law suite on the first floor). She had medical care coming and going every day. But she was not a burden. She still had her whits about her. She was in her late 90s and her body just got tired, but her mind was still sharp. Three days before she passed away, she asked me for her dentures, because she did not want to die without teeth. She said that old people who die without their teeth look weird. LOL. And sure enough, in three days she had passed away. With her teeth. LOL. Taking care of a parent with Alzheimer’s is a completely different thing. As I sit and type this, I am in tears. I know my time with her is dwindling. I know she is not going to be with us much longer. My head knows this. We all die. But this is mom. Mummy, as I used to call her. (British, you know).
That’s me and mom when I graduated from high school. 1974. (And now you can figure out how old I am! LOL!) I could not wait to move out. Mom and I have always had a rough relationship. And she really didn’t know how to be the sort of mom you could crawl onto her lap and cuddle with. I never doubted she loved me – I know that with absolute certainty. But we just did not get along. I got along with my grandmother, and felt like she was more of a mom to me, than my mom. And I think it is just because we are wired differently. I am conservative; she’s very liberal. I am pro-life whereas she is pro-choice. I am devoutly Christian, whereas mom never had a relationship with God – at least none she has ever spoken about or demonstrated. She only went to Church when someone took her with them – she has never gone alone. Ever. And there are just so many reasons why we are like oil and water. Despite that, I love her dearly. She is funny, and always the life of the party. Stubborn and resolute in all her opinions. Doggedly so. And last night, she was not herself. It was an Alzheimer’s moment that really struck deeply. She woke in the morning not sure of day or night, insisting she wanted to go to bed. She had a decent day, and then we visited. Sigh. Maybe she just saved all her angst for me and my husband. But she told us, through tears, more than six times, to take her home or not leave her there. It was so out of pattern. And it rattled me.
This morning, she has had her hair done and she and her roommates are in rare form, laughing and giggling their morning away…sigh. So I guess I can chalk it up to an Alzheimer’s moment. Nonetheless, it reminded me that time is precious. We are all here for numbered days, and we are all getting closer to that last day. We need to make the moments count. I love you, mom.
Me and Mom 2014