Monday, July 25, 2011

Since you asked......

"How is your mother?"  I get asked this question at least twice a day.  What is it that people really want to know when they ask this?  Shall I tell you that she prefers a lollipop to my hand in hers.....that she stares through and beyond me with no sign of recognition.  She wears her food down the front of her like a new blouse and a good day is when she takes in 4 spoon fulls of whatever it is they are serving.  She is shrinking it seems.  She reminds me of a tiny bird with a map of blue veins criss-crossing just under the surface of her skin, her pulse faint,  but present.  Well meaning friends tell me it is too hard to see her in such a state and therefore cannot bring themselves to visit.  I nod, not sure what to say.  I hear from staff that she is feisty at times.  I have not witnessed this.  She is living the life she most feared, though one can scarcely call it living.  I buy diapers by the case each month......she no longer even alerts staff to her need to void.
How is my mother?   The same........but thanks for asking.

"How are you?"  No one ever asks this of you in relation to your parent with Alzheimer's.  I am tired.  It is a bone weary mental fatigue that doesn't go away.  There is a moment each morning when I first awake that I don't have a mother with Alzheimer's.  It only lasts a moment before the evenings cobwebs clear and reality comes back....but it is my favorite time of day.  I walked in to my mothers room the other afternoon as they were changing her diaper and I had to walk out in embarrassment for her,..... at this indignity that would have devastated her at one time.  I stumbled to the parking lot and cried by my car for all that she and I have lost.  I went to a support group once and was the only one who showed up.
I watch the husbands and wives on her unit and go home and cry for them.  I hold my husband just a little tighter praying that this disease doesn't come into our life.  I grieve over and over.  My grief now is all about the loss of the woman she was.  At her death, will that change?  Will I finally just grieve the loss of my parent?  When I walk onto her unit and find that another resident has died, I think to myself..."good for them."  They've been released and are free.  I will probably have to move my mother to another facility.  It seems she has defied all actuarial tables and has outlived her money.  They say the transition to somewhere new is hard and may cause a decrease in her functioning.  I don't know how any less functioning she can be.  How am I?   The same............ thanks for asking.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Born on the Fourth of July.......

My grandmother was a "Gold Star" mother for one week during WWII.  My uncle was killed by enemy fire in a snowy field in Germany, his dog tags taken from his body and soon after the knock on the farmhouse door no mother wanted to answer.  During a recovery effort in that same field 3 days later, movement and a thin pulse were detected from my uncles body and once again my grandmother answered the door to an Army chaplain.  My uncle would be 88 this year.  He was born on the fourth of July up in the great north woods, lovingly adored by his older sister mother.                        

My uncles life was far from ideal.  Being left behind was a common theme from age 3 when his father left for good, leaving a young wife and two small children behind.  During the Depression years, my grandmother moved off the farm into town to waitress at the local restaurant.  Leaving my uncle in the care of her brother on the farm, she took my mother with her.  His wife left him shortly after the birth of their second child and he returned to the home of his mother where he stayed until his death.  I do not know what he was like before the war but the uncle I knew was loud, angry and prone to yelling.  If he was in one room, I made sure I was in another.

My mother called him just about every day and worried about him all the time.  Though the difference in their age was only a year, she took her role of big sister seriously.  She frets about him still and in those rare moments when she does talk, it is to ask after her brother and wonder where he is.  I always assure her he is fine and if she's patient, he'll show up soon.  My mother was looking for him this week and her love for him never so evident.  She'll be watching the fireworks Monday night and I wonder if they will jog her memory of a certain young boy born on the fourth of July.  Happy Birthday uncle.