Monday, November 28, 2011
LIFE STILL GOES ON
We all know how quickly our life goes by or at least we are suppose to. Do we take some days and perhaps years for granted? Do we take our family, loved ones sometimes for granted? We all just celebrated another Thanksgiving holiday. Do we need the holiday to really get in touch with how lucky we may be? Why can't we just "own" this without having any holiday to remind us.
It's funny how out of my mom's illness, that everyday that I still can have with her, I cherish it in a way that I never did before. For me did it take my mom getting Alzheimer's for me to realize how lucky I am to have her as my mom and in my life everyday? Now,every second that we still can share has become so precious to me.
My holiday was very special this year. I shared it with my son Logan,who is now 24 years old(see picture above) and my husband, my dear friend Leslie and then my cousin Carole and her three sons, their wives and 7 of her grandchildren. Unfortunately my bother lives in another state near my mom so we were not all together. Although in 10 days I will be back visiting my mom and brother after just visiting 8 weeks ago. Logan came with me on my last trip and now my husband Bert(mom's dancing partner) will be accompanying me on this visit.
My mom spent Thanksgiving with her caregivers family, which my mom now has no recollection of. Nor does she remember how, just a short time ago, we called her Mama Mia the Dancing Queen, for she loved to twirl my husband around while they danced. Yes, my mom Ruthie had to take over and lead the way. Now all these memories no matter how much she enjoyed them have disappeared. Yet her life and ours still goes on .The only difference now is that my mom has Alzheimer's and for her there is nothing left in her memory of her past and even her present.
The day after Thanksgiving I spoke to Elaine moms caregiver and she filled me in about how my mom was on Thanksgiving day. Ruthie of course just wanted to go home, which is something she does say even when she is with our family. Elaine kept telling her that Logan and my brother were coming so they had to stay and wait, and my mom who is still sharp replied" no they are not coming today. They are coming tomorrow". Ruthie tried to "catch" Elaine although she had no luck and spent the day with Elaine's family as they all sang Christmas Carol's. Ruthie of course joined in singing, and I was told how much she enjoyed herself. No my mom cannot remember to tell me anything about that day or any day in fact. Yet she and I still can throw kisses and share our love each and every day.
I know that my mom had a good time on Thanksgiving and enjoyed being out . I heard the cheerfulness and aliveness in her voice. For this I remain grateful and thankful and need no holiday to remind me of how lucky I am to still be with my mom ,no matter what "place" my mom now lives in.
Monday, November 21, 2011
CAN TIME STAND STILL?
My mom probably has Alzheimer’s now for at least 5-6 years, if not longer. I realize now thatwhen I look back there were such obvious things starting to change with my mother. Perhaps I should have been more aware of what was happening to her. Maybe I did take notice and just chose to ignore it, (like it might go away). Could it have been my imagination, or just not wanting to accept that this could be happening to my mom? Or was I just in denial? My Aunt Phyllis who was married to my Uncle Alvin, my mom’s only brother, had been suffering for many years with Alzheimer’s. My Aunt Phyllis had been the first one to point out to me the changes in my mom, although I think at the time my brother and I chose to ignore them. We probably thought that our aunt was just saying it, since Uncle Alvin who was younger was starting to really get bad.
As I think back now, here are some of the signs that I noticed when my mom would come to visit for one to two weeks in the summer. Just ignoring it at the time, seemed easier.
Mom’s – Signs of Alzheimer’s
1) Started dressing in dirty/stained clothes when she was always so meticulous.
2) Left crumbs and dirty dishes all on my kitchen counter after she ate. She would never have done that before. She would have placed the dishes in the sink and cleaned the counter.
3) Brought her summer clothes up to NY for Thanksgiving (winter time).
4) Kept telling us that she would resume going to all her clubs when they had already started (up again). They stopped in the summers and now it was the winter.
5) She told me she got lost in her car when she went to the supermarket and her doctor, sounding upset because she had traveled these routes many times before.
6) When my aunt had invited her over for dinner when she got picked up she was not dressed and forgot all about what day and time she was invited for.
7) My aunt had mentioned to me that when she did see my mom she was dressed in dirty clothes, something my mom never would have done.
8) Wouldn't look at all the home decor magazines that I saved for her visits , that she at one time enjoyed looking at.
8) Wouldn't look at all the home decor magazines that I saved for her visits , that she at one time enjoyed looking at.
After realizing what was happening to mom I just wanted to be back in the space of laughing with her. I wanted to feel uplifted by what she said and who she was. I wanted to rejoice in her new found dignity, how she handled what was going on with her and to stay inspired by her. I found that when I was having a hard day about my mom, filled with feelings of sadness that I would hold onto that maybe tomorrow will be a better day. I also sometimes wondered if this is how I might one day be. Will I be like my uncle or my mom? Is this disease hereditary? Especially when I sometimes cannot remember something as simple as, did I brush my teeth? Sometimes, I need to touch my toothbrush to see if it is wet.
Anyway it is now years later and here is my mom, the special one. The one I can still call my hero. We still can laugh together and there are still moments when my mom is sharp. No it is not the same ,and why should it be for in life, life does not stand still. Only if time could, would we choose to freeze it?
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
JOY & CELEBRATION
Today's post is filled with much joy & celebration. Logan my son was born twenty four years ago on November 16th. I have been blessed with such a wonderful child who is both warm and sensitive.
My mom for the last two days has been sounding great and full of life. I thought that this was a good time to perhaps reflect on our lives. So for these two special reasons this for me is a special day to celebrate and acknowledge all the people in our lives. All the people who we love and all the people who have touched our hearts.
It is a moment to acknowledge all the things in our life, and to be thankful for all that we have. I feel so lucky to also have a wonderful husband and my dad, who when he was alive was so loving to me. My brother and I have had our up's and down's yet today maybe out of my mom's illness I feel much love for him and appreciate all that he does and especially in his caregiving to my mom.
I watched on 20/20 this week a special on Gabrielle Gifford and it brought tears of happiness to my eyes. Except for my mom who is my hero, Gabby inspired me and I felt uplifted from her strength , determination and courage. Before she was shot I did not know much about her, yet today I think that who she is can make any of us a believer. Believe in our strengths and believe in who we are.
So I would like to thank my mom, my son, my husband ,my dad and Gabby for having me feel the joy's of happiness as we enter the holiday season. Each of us has something in our lives to celebrate. Yes, everyday that we open our eyes and get out of bed no matter how difficult some days may seem,
we need to realize that day is a gift. A gift that we sometimes may take for granted. So no matter what we are going through, I hope that you can find that bright spot in your life to feel some joy .
I would like to wish everyone and their family a very Happy Thanksgiving and to send hugs to each and every one of you.
Monday, November 14, 2011
My son Logan will be twenty four years old this week. My mom is now eighty seven years old. And I am.....Anyway life does not stand still. I cannot believe how old Logan is, nor my mom, nor me for that matter. Yet although my mom is not doing as great lately, to be eighty seven is to have lived for a long time. For this alone I am so grateful.
IF WE CAN ONLY FREEZE TIME
I mention to my mom that Logan took a bus to Providence, Rhode Island this weekend to visit his friend from college. My mom immediately said” aren’t you scared”? I am a little taken back by what she has just said. My reply is” no mom I’m not scared, why should I be” and she says” you let Logan go all alone on the bus he’s so young”. My answer to my mom is “he’s going to be twenty three years old in a few months. Ruthie then says “oh my, I can’t believe how old Logan is already, time really goes by so quickly.” I then ask my mom how old she thought Logan is and she answers with,” I don’t know”. This happened a year ago.
The next day my mom had a difficult time remembering her father’s name, Logan’s name, my name, my brother’s name and her name. After I play a little with her on the phone she seems to recall her name, my name and then Logan’s. The clock is starting to tick. I cannot explain why I just really feel it.
As I entered the elevator going to my gym I had a touching experience. There was a caregiver with an elderly woman who I have never seen before. I said good morning and the elderly lady did not answer me. Her caregiver acknowledged me and I then looked at the lady and said again “good morning” and she smiled and repeated it back to me. Her caregiver then motioned to me that the woman is not all there. As they were getting off the elevator at the lobby and I remained on it, I asked the caregiver if the woman had Alzheimer’s and she answered" yes". The caregiver then motioned that the women is always battling, for she put up her hands and moved them like a boxer. I smile and said “I understand, for my mom also has Alzheimer's”. I proceeded to the gym with thoughts of what just happened. I have not experienced being so close to someone else with Alzheimer’s. I seem to remember that on one of my trips to see my mom, while I was visiting, we ran into someone who knew my mom, and of course my mom didn’t recognize her . I explained to her neighbor when my mom just started to sing from nowhere that my mom had Alzheimer’s.
Is this something that we feel that we need to explain or apologize for someone’s actions? In my case, I wanted to let her neighbor know why my mom did not recognize her and why she just started to sing. No I was not embarrassed for my mom’s actions. Quite the contrary. When I look at my mom today I just feel so much love for her. At that moment I had decided to explain to this lady, who had showed such kindness to my mom what was going on.
My husband enjoys giving me articles to read and it had me remember all the articles my mom had given me over the years. When my mom gave them to me at times I found it annoying. Now I miss the fact that she can no longer do that. It’s funny how we can take for granted things, not cherishing all that passes us by. We do not realize how in one second something can just come to an end. All that’s important to me now is to tell my mom how much I love her and to try to brighten up each and every one of her days.
In three days my son Logan and Ruthie’s very favorite grandson (she has only one) will be celebrating his twenty fourth birthday. I remind my mom and her answer always is “please remind me again because I will surely not remember,” yet today she sang the Happy Birthday song and asked me to please deliver it for her to her sweet grandson. Yes mom, it will be my pleasure to deliver your message. If only we can freeze time and not let life pass us by so quickly it would be a treasure.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
I had this thought last night for the very first time. What I realized was that if I never, ever called my mom again I would never, ever speak to her again.
My mom would never realize that I did not call and she would never try to call me. She has no idea what my telephone number is and although it is plastered all over her refrigerator she would never know to look there. I don't even think that she would know how to dial a phone. Yes, mom get's incoming calls everyday from myself and my brother, yet she has not dialed a phone in several years.
I know that she cannot work the microwave, or the washing machine, or remember to flush a toilet, or what to use to brush her hair with, so why would she possibly know how to call me. Wow. I'm out of breath just thinking about it, no less writing about it. I wonder if my mom ever has a quick flash as to all the things that she use to know, that she can no longer do? On a brighter note when her phone does ring she still can answer and say" hello".
MY MAN I LOVE HIM SO (fourteen months ago)
Hi sweetie she says when she hears my voice on the other side of the phone. I respond with how’s my favorite Mama Mia and my mom reverses it and says "Mia Mama is good and how are you"? We giggle like teenagers. After several conversations with my mom, she then says" there are something’s that I am not going to remember. I cannot keep everything in my head , and not everything is important for me to remember”. Wow, mom you certainly have a point there.
From time to time she has mentioned something about her dining room chandelier, how nice it is. She tells me that my dad had picked it out, and that originally she had not liked it. Yet she now says that my dad was right and that it is a beautiful chandelier. Mom then interupts herself, and shares with me that she was the sick one ,and how she always thought that she would die first. She explains that my dad was the healthy one. Mom says he died too young, and only then does she sound sad and repeats what she has said before,” when your time is up, your time is up and there is nothing that you can do about it”. I try to stay away from these conversations with her for there certainly is no reason to upset her more. I’m pretty sure that the chandelier represents or symbolizes something profound about my dad, for this is something that she has spoken about several times before. I do remember that it came with the apartment and I remember that my mother never had liked it , yet my father did. For some reason she kept it and never bought a new one.
My dad was so easy going and yet he had wanted to keep the chandelier, so my mom left it hanging over her dining room table. My mom has also said that she would never move and leave this chandelier. I have explained to her that we could move it also, and she replies that it is really heavy. I have told my mom that we would hire someone to move it and she always says,” oh no”.
Is this chandelier my dad to her? How meaningful it must be to her. I wonder what the chandelier represents to her? Will I ever find out? I guess I never will and does it really matter.
My mom as the days go by in early September, 2010 seems to have so little memory left of times and places that she shared with my dad many years ago. Memories that have just faded into the night, just like they never existed. Yet she still has her sense of humor and wit. I have noticed that her spelling is not as sharp and she doesn’t sing to me as much. There still is the laughter and joy in her voice and for this I am still so thankful. I still hear the smile on her face when I call, and when she speaks my name, I seem to melt.
When friends ask how my mom is I still can answer she's fine, with a smile on my face. It’s now the little things in life that are important to me. I have learned to appreciate all the things that I had taken for granted. And I know that with each passing day that time is not standing still, and perhaps one day my mom will not know who I am.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
ONE YEAR TO THE NEXT
It's funny and it's strange how when I read what I wrote about my mom approximately fifteen months ago I see how in some ways she's the same, and I also see how she is changing or should I say disappearing more into her self.
I will be going to see Ruthie again in four weeks with my husband, mom's dancing partner. Mom has really no memory of this anymore, where last year she was able to recall how she had danced with him and lead the way. We were able to laugh alot when I would tease her how she was the only one my husband now enjoyed dancing with.
I called my mom today and was telling her how exciting it was to see all the people from around the world running in the New York City Marathon. I shared with her how I saw them running in Central Park and over the 59th Street bridge. This was mom's old stomping grounds for she grew up in the city. Mom had no idea what I was speaking about. I tried to joke with her that the runners were running twenty eight miles and that I would have trouble running one mile. I hardly got a response from my mom and she actually did not even want to speak about it. I find that she has stopped asking questions or have any interest in ninety five percent of what I have to say. Could I be so boring, that Ruthie has nothing to say, or more likely that mom has no images left in her memory ?
Alzheimer's what an amazing illness. Amazing not as in good, but as in how can someone's whole life just seem to disappear. Just like it never existed before. Who are they, and where did they come from. Each Alzheimer's case is different. My mom seems to have no memory of hardly anything from her past as well as her present.
August 24, 2010 I call my mom and start to sing Happy Birthday to her. Several weeks ago we celebrated it together in Florida, yet she has no recollection about it or of Logan and I being with her. My mom fills in her age as I sing and says that she is twenty four. I correct her and tell her that she is 86, she then says to me “what difference does it make how old I am, I cannot do anything about it.”We both laugh and then I tell her that when I come back again in a few months, we can celebrate her birthday again and she replies, no please just come because I love and miss you. My mom at moments can really break my heart.
I have another good day with my mom. My mom sounds sharp and alert. I shared with her some cute things about going with Logan to buy him a new mattress and negotiating with the salesperson. She understood everything and had once again given me some words of wisdom about my negotiating skills. She was able to follow everything I said, make her comments, and needless to say sharp ones at that. Our laughing and singing together has returned. My mom is back and thanks again, Ruthie for making me laugh and smile. As they say what a difference a day makes!
It is Wednesday and the day my brother comes to take her to lunch and food shop. As history repeats itself so does my brothers visits to my mom. My mom really likes this day. I cannot say in truthfulness that she looks forward to it because looking forward to it would be remembering how much she enjoys it, and that she cannot do . Every week when I remind her she asks me if I know what time my brother is coming. My answer always is 1 o’clock and then she asks me what time it is now. She then tries to figure out how many hours till he comes, and then she repeats and asks me again what time it is and what time is he coming, since she cannot remember. This silly conversation actually delights me. It is almost like speaking to a child. I guess the difference is that now I am so understanding, where before I would have felt perhaps annoyed thinking to myself, what’s her problem, or why can’t she just remember. I probably would have lost my patience. I’m not necessarily proud about that character flaw in my personality, just realistic and truthful about it.
Sometimes while I am speaking to her I tell her to hold on or that I have to hang up now because I want to write down what she just said, before I too will forget it. My mom asks why I am writing it down and I tell her again about the memoir that I am writing about her. Sometimes she says that it sounds familiar yet she finds this a little amusing. My mom says don’t worry you won’t forget it (although I can, which is a little scary to me) and she also comments that I should not ask her to repeat what she just said because she cannot remember it. So of course we both laugh at the truth, which is lovely. No heaviness about the truth, just a statement of what is. This is what is so precious about my mom. Instead of her being upset that she knows that she cannot remember something (or really anything), she just says it lightly and moves on. No self pity, no poor me. Now, even though this is my mom, I do find her to be amazing.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
My mom's caregiver and her daughter are special. They are kind and caring to my mom who has Alzheimer's disease Please take the time to honor your caregiver, especially if it is you.
November is National Family Caregiver Month, and I wanted to share some personal thoughts on the subject of caregivers. I was a caregiver for my father, who passed away from Alzheimer’s 15 years ago. Fast forward to the present. I was in denial when I was diagnosed with the early-onset Alzheimer's...