Michael Wilcox, Publisher/Editor
I wish I could have a meaningful conversation with my mother, today. A simple talk would be the best gift this guy could ever receive.
But I can’t, and haven’t been able to for four years. You see, she has advanced Alzheimer’s, and although she is quite alive physically, mentally she is in another world.
I visit her in a Lansing facility every Sunday. Most of the time she doesn’t know who I am, or where I came from. She has no recollection of our previous Sunday’s visit, nor does she even remember that my sister had visited her yesterday.
She can’t remember what happened five minutes ago, let alone a day ago. She doesn’t know when it’s time to eat or where the cafeteria is, even though she’s taken there three times a day. Don’t ask her where her room is. Even though she spends a lot of time there she wouldn’t be able to direct you to it if you asked. Of course she wouldn’t even understand what you were asking.
Conversely, she still has terrific reflexes. I often play catch with her in the recreation room. She sits in her wheelchair about ten feet from me and we throw a rubber ball back and forth. She’s better than some major league catchers, when it comes to snagging that rubber ball. And she throws very accurately as well. I’m awestruck how one can catch and throw so well, but can’t remember the name of the object they are catching.
Alzheimer’s is the cruelest of all diseases. It slowly sucks away all your memory. Older people like to reminisce about the good ole days. They like to tell their children and grandchildren how living was difficult when they were growing up. They have great war stories, and even better school stories.
Mom has nothing. Her speech is gibberish. She can’t complete a sentence and very few of the words that come from her mouth make sense. She will look at a poster on the wall and try to pronounce words without much success.
It brings tears to my eyes. You see my mother was “the rock” of our family. While my dad was away a lot of the time (he was in politics), she essentially took care of my four siblings and myself. She instilled the values and morals we now live by; she was the disciplinarian, making sure we didn’t get out of line; and of course she ran the household- cooking meals, washing clothes, cleaning the house, and providing the five of us whatever we needed.
In her later years, she and my dad switched roles. They lived in Florida, and he became essentially her caregiver. She had dementia or Alzheimer’s two or three years before her sons or daughters knew. My dad was taking care of her, waiting on her hand and foot, and we had no idea the disease was slowly taking her mind over.
When my dad died in May of 2010 (he was always a picture of health despite smoking 24/7 for sixty years) my mother had no idea what was going on. She was in that other world and really didn’t know who my dad was. That’s so sad- the man she had been married to for nearly sixty years, and in the end, she had no idea who he was.
I know that simple conversation will never occur. Alzheimer’s will continue to eat away at her brain, like a vulture devours roadkill. All I have is memories of the past, and most of them will be cherished and handed down to my child. At least I have them.
On the other hand, my mom has nothing. I told her last Sunday, that Mother’s Day was nearing. She looked at me quizzically and asked “what’s a mother?” I was too choked up to answer, not that it would have done any good. I eventually said Happy Mother’s Day, mom, then kissed her, and left.