I’m thinking about Mom. Most people who lose a loved-one do so suddenly – one fell swoop: heart attack, car accident, stroke, aneurysm . . . POOF! Gone.
They go from having this person they love in their lives to NOT having anything but their memories of that person. There’s a funeral where all who love that person come to tell you how sad they are for your loss, and they cry with you, and tell you what they love about that person, and they bring you food . . . .
With Alzheimer’s Disease, I started losing my mother YEARS before I even knew it. The changes in her were so subtle, so gradual, and so private, that I did not know parts of her were simply disintegrating right before my eyes.
When I finally realized it, I was so ANGRY at her for getting this disease! How could she become incompetent? negative? paranoid? I argued with her, I blew up at her, I walked her down paths of logic so many times . . . pointlessly, because logic was gone, the will to argue was gone, all purpose was gone.
Mother’s Day Gift from Mom to Me
This anger completely consumed me, until about five years ago, when I bought this little book for her for Mother’s Day. It was a hardback book filled with printed pages, chapter after chapter, that evoked memories of childhood and helped you think about different aspects of your mother. Then there were blank areas for you to write in your memories about YOUR mother – all to be given to her for Mother’s Day.
I gave Mom her special book, like a kid giving her mom a hand-print on a Valentine, thinking it was incredibly weak and lame as a gift, but it was all I could come up with at the time. Dad said she read it over and over and over, all week long. She wrote me a three-page thank-you letter for that $10 book.
The true gift given was to me, however. For so many years, I had been struggling with this Mom who was different, negative, paranoid, dependent yet resentful, and who was not a person that I liked at all. I responded with anger, because it was more comfortable than “being weak” and crying about it. I could not get a positive picture of Mom into my head. Then the book, with it’s words and it’s blank spaces and prompts, helped me to search my memories; to revive long-dormant pictures, audio tapes, and pieces of my Mom, and it helped me remember the wonderful, giving, loving, artsy, wacky woman who pushed me, inspired me, and influenced me every day to become everything she had no idea how to become – an educated, independent, self-fulfilled woman.
Not Grieving for Mom
Back to those people whose loved ones die suddenly. Their memory of that person is frozen at one point in time. However, I watched my Mom’s very being evaporate – molecule by molecule – almost imperceptibly, day to day. Every single day of her life she died right in front of me, little by little by little. The amount of grief that I would’ve experienced suddenly – had she died before this disease – had now been parsed out over the last twelve or thirteen years (so far, with who knows how many more to come.)
Mom, wherever she IS spiritually, because it isn’t heaven or hell, would be screaming at the top of her lungs – 24/7 – to be released from her miserable failure of a body. She, of all people, is too proud, too vain, and too obsessive about the well-being of her children to ever put them through this particular meat-grinder-to-the-psyche-and-body kind of hell called Alzheimer’s.
Someday, I’d really like to have relatives and friends visiting my house and the funeral home telling me all the things my mother did for them and how much they appreciate and admired her. They would tell me how she always talked of nothing else, but “Becky did this,” and “Becky won that,” and “Becky’s going to so-and-so place.” They would talk about their un-marred memories (and in so doing, give them to me) of the beautiful, strong-willed woman who believed in people, who saw things in them nobody else took the time to see, who helped them realize a dream. They wouldn’t know anything about that woman with my Dad who staggers sometimes because she’s losing the ability to maintain a proper gait; the woman who looks for no person to talk to and no place to go; the woman with that blank stare whose once-fiery eyes held the entire universe for me.
Hopefully, Dad and I will be able to keep in our minds a sweet, special place that contains snippets of Mom in all her beauty, love, and wisdom. That is my wish for her and for us.