Monday, November 29, 2010

This I am grateful for......

There is a moment after a question has been asked and before the answer has been given, in which all is possible. It hangs suspended, open to assumption, hope, wish, optimism and even pessimism.

The morning before Thanksgiving, my mother looked up at me and asked, "are you my daughter"? It was a precious moment. I knew that for the first time in months she had awareness of being a mother, awareness however fleeting ...of me. My answer that morning and her subsequent response aren't as important as that moment. For that, I am grateful.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

For You

The memory box outside my mothers room looks like a window with 4 shelves and a locking pane of glass to protect the view inside. Up until last week, if you paused to gaze within, you would have seen a 5x7 black and white photo of my parents taken on their wedding day as they prepared to cut their cake. Their hands are clasped closely over each others and there is a faint blush in my mothers cheeks and a smile in my fathers' eye. Their whole life is ahead of them and surely only good fortune and the promise of a long happy future lay ahead. Next to this photo, is an exact duplicate in sterling silver of my mothers life membership card in the American Legion Auxiliary. Alongside is a platter given to her in 1964 when she was state president of the American Legion Auxiliary and next to that, the teacup pictured above. I gave my mother teacups for every special occasion when I was growing up. They hung on a rack in the kitchen and often we would try to guess each others favorites. I bought this one in 1975 as a gift for her 25Th wedding anniversary. A typical mom in some ways...she always insisted they were all her favorites.

Last week upon the arrival of her new roommate, I found that the platter and teacup had been carelessly taken out of the box and placed in the magazine rack in her room. Her wedding photo and sterling card had been moved to a higher shelf and placed behind the figurines and photos of her new roommate. I'll be the first to say that neither my mother or her roommate give a damn about their memory box. My mom knew about it once but that piece of information is long gone. The memories are mine and anyone else's to view, should they gaze into the glass window on the wall. Clearly whoever changed things around and rearranged knows this. I have been at a loss since this happened to identify my feelings on can someone so clearly value ones memories at the expense of someone else's?

My mother asked me my name today and when I told her I was Pamela, she asked me if I knew her daughter Pamela. When I told her it was I, she looked at me sadly as though I had lost my mind and said, "I really don't think so." I take heart that she remembers her daughter and pray that she doesn't think she has' abandoned her. Memories.....for some of us it's all we have.

I have set about arranging my mothers memory box once again. I use only one shelf of the four, and I am careful to not upset Ellie's memory items. The teacup sits front and center and brings me back to the anniversary party on a July afternoon in my grandmothers backyard. I counted her teacups today when I got home...I have 32 more ...You mess with the teacups, you mess with me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I crept into the dim light of my mothers room this weekend....she was down for an afternoon nap. I must have startled her in my approach, as her eyes flew open and she gasped..."oh mama, I'm so glad you are here" she said. I sat down on the bed and she reached for my hand and burrowed just a bit closer putting her head in my lap. I held her hand and gently stroked her cheek as she shut her eyes and drifted off. It wasn't always like this between she and I. We didn't touch, hug or hold hands. I am greedy in my mid life, touching and holding her constantly, as if I could somehow undo the last 50 years. I notice when I touch her, that her body remembers what her mind has forgotten. I don't think AD can obliterate the sense of touch and gentleness. Her face relaxes, a ghost of a smile appears.....oh mama.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


My mothers roommate of 3 years died last night. Her name was Stella and while I cannot say I knew her well, this is what I did know. She had a niece who visited often in the beginning and then not so much. She had beautiful long white hair which the nurses brushed and kept in a long plait down her back. Her face was hardly touched by age, though she was well into her 70's, and the lines of anguish I see so often on the faces of others with Alzheimer's was absent on hers. She was usually quiet and subdued though on a few occasions, she'd tell anyone within a 5 foot radius to "FUCK OFF". I must admit to a little smile and "you go Stella" whenever she did this. I will also admit that I felt a bit of happiness for her tonight that she gets to finally leave this life that has been dealt to her. I mean seriously, how much pureed food and ever present odor of urine can one human endure. The answer apparently...a whole lot. But I digress....

I found out she died this evening while visiting my mom. I walked into their room to find Stella's side completely bare of furniture, no pictures on the walls and no sign of clothing in the closet. When I inquired at the nurses station, I'm informed that due to HIPPA regulations and confidentiality laws, they are unable to officially tell me. Off the record I am told she has died. Really? I know its not much of a club, but to those of us with family on the inside...its our club and these losses mean something to us. Confidentiality be damned, but again...I digress.

So here's the kicker to the whole mother and Stella both confined to wheelchairs, both sleep in beds at least 30 feet away from each mother is so deaf that you have to yell into her ear while standing practically on top of her and she still doesn't hear you and on top of that she hasn't uttered a single intelligent sentence in about 5 weeks....Stella and mom go to bed at 8pm last night, bed checks at 8:30, 9:00, 9:30 and 10:00 all 10:30, my mom yells out quite clearly "please someone, come here now, we need help". Stella has died.

There are more things I probably can't explain than things I can. This is one of them. Who says there is no mystery, it's everywhere you turn.