I am gently shadowing my true feelings in my title, though I am sure you can easily read between the symbols. And even those words are not strong enough to describe how I really feel about it. I don’t think there are words strong enough to clearly articulate how I feel about this insipid disease.
My introduction to Alzheimer’s came when I was very young. I used to spend hours visiting my grandmother on the just over the Michigan line. We’d hang out in her kitchen. She would feed me peanut butter sandwich cookies and chocolate milk made with Nestle Quik. Her toys weren’t as fun as my “city” grandmother had on the Ohio side of the line, but that was okay.
I was only about six or seven when my grandmother suddenly had to move from the farm and into what I thought of as the smelly place. You hear about the horrid medicinal and deathly smell of nursing homes, and this place had it in abundance. I wasn’t sure what to make of the other people who lived there. I cherished the “slumber parties” that my mother let us have, when she would bring Grandma home to our house. She always got to sleep on the trundle bed in my room.
When Grandma would spend the night, she always left her full dentures in a glass in the Little Bathroom, which kind of freaked me out. But she would let me talk her ear off all night. One of my favorite memories is singing to her a “new song” I had just learned: “It’s a Small World.” It was one of the songs on my Disney tapes. She quicly learned it and sang along with me. Whenever I hear that song, I am transported back to being that young six-year-old, singing my heart out with my beloved grandmother.
As time went on, Mom stopped taking us to the nursing home with her as much. She tried to explain it to us, but it’s so hard to do. I distinctly remember one time, I had to go use the bathroom. I went in to use the facilities. A moment later, my mom came in with my little sister. All three of us were in there. After washing my hands, I went back in the room. Grandma was still chatting away as if we were all still there. Only you could tell she thought it was a couple of decades earlier. That really made an impression on me and helped partially explain what was happening to my grandmother.
She died when I was nine years old. I vividly remember every moment leading up to and following that horrid phone call from the nursing home, telling my mother that her beloved mother had passed away. I was a helluva mess after that, myself. I realize now that part of it was me being an empath and feeding off of my mother’s horrific pain. The other part of it was sheer anger. Mom had only taken me to see Grandma two times that year. I now understand that she was trying to protect me, so that I would remember my more clear-headed grandmother, and not the shell of a woman that she had become.
Fast-forward 25 years. My mom first started showing signs a few years before that, but no one took us seriously for a long time. Finally, she ran away in the middle of the night on Valentine’s Day. Rescue services quickly located her and got her to the hospital before she was injured, but finally it was obvious to the medical professionals that she needed more help.
Long story short (that I don’t want to get into today), my father passed away a few months after my mother was placed in the home. I always say it was a blessing that he never had to watch her total decline. And she never knew that he died.
With Dad gone, I no longer had a regular place to stay to come home to visit. It made it difficult being so far away, but we didn’t want to move her. She was in the best possible place for her, receiving the best possible care. That was most important.
When Mom was first in the home, I would come visit and she would get agitated. I know it was because she didn’t know how to express herself. She was still in that stage where she knew what was happening to her, but didn’t want to accept it. And then they would have to sneak me out back door, because she was always trying to come with me.
Then she calmed down. Our visits became a little easier in the sense that she was no longer agitated. She was tired. She didn’t sleep well. I still remember stopping in late one night after a late dinner with some friends in town. My mother fell asleep in my arms, much like I did in hers when I was a little girl. Tears silently streamed down my cheeks as I absorbed every essence of her being that I could get. Even her nurses were crying.
But our conversations were gone. My mother and I used to talk for hours, whether it was on the phone or in person. Now she could barely put together a coherent sentence. This once super intelligent woman, who could do math figures in her head and had perfect pitch in music, was now sputtering and stumbling over words.
I just wanted my mother back. When my father died, right after she went into the home, I felt like I had lost both of my parents at the same time. And all I wanted was for my mother to console me as I was dealing with that horrific loss. I was having relationship problems and needed her counsel and advice. I needed her to laugh at my stories from my classroom. But all I could do was touch her face and breathe in her smell. Every time I had to leave, I felt like a part of me was being ripped out. I would cry and rant and swear at this asshole disease stealing my mother.
I have so many stories from her time in the home. She lived another seven years, which is well beyond the average life expectancy. We had high points and low points. The one thing for which I am most grateful is that she always knew me on some level and I was always a great source of comfort to her when I was able to visit.
I want to share more, but the tears are already streaming down my cheeks and I am tired. I’ll have more to say as this challenge goes on. Thank you for reading this far.
Catch up on the rest of the 2019 Challenge here.
See my A posts about my mom from previous years’ challenges:
A is for Acceptance (2012)
A is for Anger and Acceptance (2011)