I am a little down today. It’s Black Friday and I’m feeling the black mood. LOL. Yesterday we enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving meal with our son and his family. My daughter-in-law outdid herself. The food was amazing. And they had decided that since they had so few Thanksgiving decoration items, they would just go ahead and bring on Christmas. And it was lovely!!! The decor looked amazing and it added to the festive attitude. Our grandson made everyone welcome letters. It was so sweet. I was able to sit with each grandchild and listen to them read from their favorite new books. They are doing so very well. I am so proud of them.
This image was floating around the web and it was one of many that sort of spoke to the day. And to 2020 as a whole! LOL! We enjoyed our Thanksgiving regardless of what was going on around us. Our DIL said a lovely prayer, and then we went around the table, telling everyone what we are grateful for. My granddaughter stole the show when she told us she was grateful for hot water! And to be honest, the simplicity of that was just beautiful. It was where she was at. And she continually amazes me with what she shares. LOL.
I am sure you can see, even without a full face, that she is a character! And I thought about it and having character is a good thing. I also saw my mom yesterday; her character has stood her in good stead over her lifetime. She has end-stage Alzheimer’s and is now with Hospice care in her Assisted Living Home. Because of the chaos of Covid, people like my mom are cut off from everyone they know. We have lockdowns and our most vulnerable, our elderly, have no one to hold their hands or share stories of their lives with – no one who really knows them well. The staff are such amazing people and I know that they have developed their own family within the home, and I have seen how they care for mom. I am eternally grateful that they will be the ones spending her final days with her. But I am kind of mad it is not me. On the other hand, she is in an Assisted Living because living with us just did not work out so well. I’ve said it before, but something inside mom knew the order was wrong – she was supposed to be caring for me, in her home, because she is the mother. And it was all backwards for her, and as she descended further into Alzheimer’s World, this one confused her too much. She was frustrated and angry and I was the closest person she could take it out on. And since she has lived there, we had been able to restore our mother-daughter bond. Until yesterday.
Yesterday, mom did not know who I was. For the first time. And it undid me. She has no memory of being a mother, or having children running around, all the years of my childhood, of my brother and I. She has no memory of being married. She does remember she danced. The annoying part for me is that I am jealous of her years dancing, because she remembers that and not me. She took ballet and tap and was a part of the Royal Ballet – their junior troupe – until she was 18. She is 91 and she recalls that part of her life. When she asks to go home, she means New Zealand, with her mom and dad. No memory of my dad, who she met at 20 and dated until 21, when they married. During that time, they built their own home. In Mt. Roskill, New Zealand. They immigrated to the USA in 1955. I was born in 1956, and my brother in 1958. My parents divorced when I was 22. Mom remarried, to the love of her life, and was married for over 30 years. They lived on a sailboat; they traveled. They enjoyed life so very much. (They lived in so many places we used to tease them that they belonged to the Witness Protection Program!!) And my children recall him as their grandpa. He passed away about 8 years ago. She has no memory. Of any of that. None of it. Alzheimer’s steals the person away from themselves, because it rips those memories away from them, leaving them hollow. And making those of us who live beyond them, longing to have them back.
Mom turned 91 and we brought her a gift and a card. They are on lockdown, so I was only allowed to stand in the storm entry while she remained in the house. She read this card and commented how nice it was. I told her it was from us, her daughter and son-in-law. And she responded, “Oh. That’s who you are.” My heart sunk. She had been looking at me so deeply, and after she said that, I realized she was searching for familiarity. And she could not find it. What was interesting was as we were about to leave, she called me by my full name – and when mom used to call us by our first and middle names, I knew it was time to listen. This time, I was happy she associated me with my name, but there was no reason to pay attention because she had already checked out. She was being wheeled back to her recliner and called over her shoulder, “Call me sometime and we can get together. I would like that.”
The days have certainly raced past these three years. The interwoven life we had when mom lived with us, has gone by far too quickly, as Alzheimer’s has just stolen more and more of Mom away. I am so very blessed we had the time we had, just she and I. We had the conversations we needed to have, so that I can ensure these last days are how she wanted to spend them. The Hospice team is incredible, and so very kind and understanding. We have zoom meetings and they do me so much good. They understand this disease and although they are there to give mom the best medical care, they are also there for me. And I feel blessed for that. The Chaplain and I hit it off, and she plans to call me regularly. Not mom, but me.
And that brings me to the winter doldrums.
It sort of feels like it is time to huddle. LOL. The holidays are fraught with all sorts of landmines, and this just brought me down. I am going to have to do some baking or play Christmas music or something, because I just paused writing this, called the Chaplain back and left a message, and had a weepy moment.
They say Alzheimer’s is the long goodbye. And I totally get that. I realized my parents are pretty much gone for me. Dad has dementia and we haven’t spoken in a couple of years, and that relationship has been purely over-the-phone, off and on, for about 30 years or more, and steadily that way for over 21 years. So we were not that close. But Mom was a different thing. To watch her shrink into herself and for us not to be able to connect, well, it is devastating. I long for some mom moments with her even at 64 years old. But I realized yesterday that I will never have that again. And it deeply struck me on Thanksgiving Day.
I am also looking to my granddaughter in her simplicity…and I will be thankful for all of it. Because the bad and the good are what make up life and it makes it richer. Moving forward, one day at a time. And appreciating hot water!