Friday, August 31, 2012



The first words from my mom after we said our good morning hellos was "when are you coming to see me"? Mom, (I fibbed) in a couple of weeks". "Great, and who are you coming with"? "My husband", I replied. "You're married"? "Yes mom, I've been married for thirty years". "I can't believe your married, you look so young. You look like a baby".

As I smiled to myself, and felt the love from my mom, I flashed on when I was a little girl, which was many years ago. I thought of my mom in her youth and all the things we did together. That was then and this is now.

She then asked where I lived and I answered, New York. Mom was able to have a moment of memory for she answered, "I use to come to visit you a lot in New York". Yes mom, I thought to myself, and you also were also born and raised here. New York was your home.

Mom lived here till she was sixty two years old. She moved right before I became pregnant, with her one and only grandchild. Logan is his name, named after her dad Louis. He will be turning twenty five in several months and today, with all the love she feels for him, and all the special moments they shared, he is just a fading memory in her life.

 Last week when I mentioned Logan's name, she said it sounded familiar to her.  Her grandson that she so adored, now just a glimpse of a shadow in her "world".  I know in my heart that all her love is still there for him, its just that she cannot connect all the pieces.  Sometimes when we speak of her grandchild, she thinks that he is still a young child.  She will ask why I allow him to do some of the things I share with her.  She cannot believe how old he ,what he looks like, or his stature of being six feet tall.

Deciding to lighten the conversation and to have some fun, I asked Ruthie if she'd like to live with me in New York.  Mom use to say that she would never leave Florida. This time to my surprise, she said "how would I get there". "Well mom I could come and bring you up". "When"? she asked. "Maybe soon". "Okay let me think about it". Of course this conversation, like so many others quickly faded into the distance, for the next time we would speak, mom would have no memory of it.

Alzheimer's, now that I can see what it has stolen from my mom, her life, her existence still leaves me with the question of, how can this disease just eat away your life, as if it never existed?  It is mind boggling to me.

As our phone call came to an end, mom softly whispered to me "please come visit, I have a home you can stay in . Lisa, you know that you can come whenever you want, because I  love you".

At that moment this little lady, who is no longer five feet tall, broke my heart. I wanted to pick her up and hold her in my arms and tell her that everything will be okay. Okay? I know that is not the way this illness usually ends. Yet for now, I still can hear mom speak those tender words to me. And for me, at the moment this is all I need.  I feel the love, and deeply cherish all that we still have, no matter how little, it may be.


Saturday, August 25, 2012



 The picture above is from a birthday we celebrated together two years ago, while I was visiting my mom in Florida.  Today she turned eighty eight years "young". This year I remained in New York during her birthday. The best I could do, was send her a special birthday card filled with much love and affection, and sing her the Happy Birthday song. This week as we approached her birthday, it was in some ways quite different.

The week started where my mom's caregiver Trudy, called around 8:30AM, to tell me that she called for an ambulance to take my mom to the hospital. She had cleared the decision with my brother Gil.
When she arrived she found Ruthie to be a little disoriented and complaining terribly about pain in her neck.

Trudy discovered that my mom had several bruises and black and blue marks on her arms, wrists and fingers. We all seemed to wonder what had happened to my mom, and since she could not tell us, we all assumed that she must have fallen down. The medics arrived and Ruthie was at least able to tell them her birth date and her name as take strapped her to a stretcher, and placed her in the ambulance.

 Several hours later when I spoke to the emergency room doctor they were discharging my mom and sending her home. The doctor said that they ran many tests, took ex rays, MRI, urine, blood, and he was pleased to say that everything was normal. Yes in his world normal, and in ours, except for having Alzheimer's and macular degeneration mom was doing great as in"normal". Nothing appeared to be broken.

I spoke to everyone several times that day from the hospital and later when mom was back at home. The next two days, mom appeared to be so weak that she had trouble walking to the bathroom. We had her caregivers, who normally stay for twelve hours, sleep over with mom for several days. By day three mom was starting to bounce back. She was walking much better and the even started laughing and singing along with me as we practiced her birthday song.

What struck me the most with this week was the several comments my mom had made about life, and being alive. The day she came back home from the hospital, she was rambling on about things that made absolutely no sense. When I mentioned that she was in the hospital she said "no, I was never in the hospital." I thought that all the strange things she was describing, was in someway related to the nurses, the x ray machines, the fear of being in an ambulance, things that she was not able to remember. Yet as clear as day my mom in between speed talking, said to me, "life is short so you just need to remember to be happy". I hung up the phone, turned to my husband with amazement,
and thought how profound it was what my mom had just said .

The next day, somewhere in our conversation, mom said to me that she wanted to be alive.  With a lightness in my voice, I told her that she was very alive, for who else was I speaking to. Finally on the day before her birthday, as we practiced singing her birthday song, she chirped in with, as we got to the end of "how old are you now, how old are you now"? my mom answered with "old enough to be alive, and thank god".

All these phrases she kept saying about life and living, only left me to wonder what my mom had felt was happening to her this week.  Feelings that she can no longer share or express, for they just disappear from her memory. Feelings that seem to go unspoken . All the things she described to me, I truly believe for her, was a statement of wanting to live.  Mom was not ready to die.

So mom, I toast you on your birthday, and as you just recently said to me, I will remember that "life is short, so we need to be happy".  Yes my sweet loving mom , once again your words become wisdom to my ears. I just want to wish you a very Happy Birthday, and to let you know how very much I love and cherish you.  I do not know how many more we will be able to celebrate together, yet for number eighty eight, it stays in my heart as a very special one.

Saturday, August 18, 2012



Sometimes when dark clouds start to clear, the sky opens up to glimmers of a rainbow . This is how my mom has been this week after the antibiotic she has been on started to work. Before we knew that she had a UTI infection, my mom appeared listless, only wanting to sleep her days away.

Not anymore. The sounds of her laughter and joy could certainly fill the size of a ballroom. Mom was reciting to me a rhyme that she recently made up. "Mister, Mister, where did you meet your sister". She said it over and over again, with much humor and expression in her voice. Each time that she repeated her new rhyme "Mister, Mister where did you meet your sister? we would both giggle as she rejoiced with her verses. She even had her caregiver Trudy, laughing hysterically in the background.

Just hearing the sound of her joy and happiness delighted me, sending thrills up and down my spine . She sounded so alive as if she was having an adrenaline rush, or maybe was about to run a marathon race . Either way the excitement that she showed brought a needed smile to my face and a lightness to my heart. The week before I knew that my mom was having a rather hard time.

Alzheimer's is such a strange disease and one that I do not understand. One day my mom can be lethargic, and the next day she can be dancing the night away. I never know how long these moments of aliveness can last. Nor do I really want to know. I just try to go with the flow of mom's ups and downs.

I wish that every day would be an up day for my mom. This I know is not possible. I find it hard to even imagine how in some ways my mom is so alive, yet in other ways there is not much that exists in her life.

Mom will be eighty eight years old at the end of this week. Except for having Alzheimer's and macular degeneration she is in rather good health. She never seems to complain about anything, and on her good days there is always joy and laughter that resonates from her being. The only thing that she will say to me is that she cannot remember much of anything.

Actually mom remembers very little of anything.  For me the most important thing is that she still remembers me. I know that this is a gift to be cherished. A gift that may one day be taken away. Yet today I choose to remain happy. Its almost like when I see the glimmers of rainbows forming in the sky. I see all the beauty and do not remember the storm that just passed by.

Friday, August 10, 2012



My mom will be eighty eight years old in fourteen days. For this I am quite grateful. Yet the last few weeks I can feel how she is starting to drift further away. One could say like a boat lost at sea, or caught in the mist of a dense fog.

Yes, we still have our special moments, and I can still hear the sound of joy and laughter coming from her as we speak.  I just notice that they are becoming less frequent. At times her voice sounds more lethargic and somewhat listless . Perhaps it is that she is moving further along with her Alzheimer's, and also being eighty eight makes her no spring chicken.

In the beginning of the week my mom sounded disoriented, complaining about back pains. She did not know where she lived, and only wanted to go back home, for fear that her mom would be worried about her. We were fortunate to realize that mom was having a UTI.(urinary tract infection) and quickly got her on an antibiotic. We were down this path several months ago, so we are now educated about what to do for her.  It is several days later now and mom sounds "back to normal".

My mom will kid around with me and tell me that I am catching up to her in age. "How about your height"? I ask of her. Mom who is under five feet tall, responds with" who knows maybe I still will grow".  At moments like this her humor warms my heart.

I try my best to keep her mind stimulated.  Mom has been an excellent speller and always had a great vocabulary. She seems to still get ninety percent of the words she spells correct. Yet when I ask her to spell Portugal, she says to me "what's that?, I never heard of it". Or she'll say" what is a lobster" ?, which mom use to love to eat. "Mom, can you spell illusion", "I never heard of that word". "Okay mom spell delusion" which she was able to do as simple as 1,2,3.

Her voice seems more tired and there are more days when she wants to take a nap. Mom was someone who never napped. I wonder if she is up all hours of the night, since I'm aware that people with Alzheimer's have awkward sleep patterns.  Day is night and nights can be day.They do not realize the difference, as if they are all rolled into one.

On the other side of this cloud is still some sunshine. My mom asked when am I coming to visit, after I had just described how foggy it was outside. She then was able to respond with that I shouldn't come to the sky brightens, because she would never want anything to happen to me.

"Mom, you can really break my heart, when you say things like that ". I continue with,"do you know how very much I love you"? She then answers with,"no, I know you love me ,but I do not understand what much means". I try to explain with a little surprise in my voice. Mom has difficulty understanding what the word "much" means.  I quickly move past this conversation .

No matter which way our conversations go, and no matter how much she is drifting away, I still hold on to how lucky I am. On most days we are still able to speak and laugh.  I cherish all our silly conversations and delight in the moments of joy that we still can share.  I have no idea how long my mom will be able to remember who I am, or my name, so today as always I am thankful for all that we still can share, as she seems to drift away.

Friday, August 3, 2012


As I begin my new post I want to share how much I admire and respect my mom's caregiver's. This is Elaine and Trudy(mother & daughter) who have been with my mom for the last several years. They are so caring and special.  I do not know how we would manage without them. Each day they arrive at Ruthie's house around 8AM and leave after they put her to sleep around 8PM . They are so kind and gentle to her.  I know how they have won mom over, and have touched her heart.

In the mornings they make sure that my mom is showered, dressed in clean clothes and prepare and give her three meals a day. They polish her nails, make sure she brushes her teeth, take her for haircuts, to doctors appointments and keep her company twelve hours a day. On most weekends and during the holidays they have her join them, at their own family gatherings.

When they first arrived my mom was a little feisty towards them, refusing to do some of the things they asked of her. Yet they always complimented  how nice she was to them. Today, although my mom can not express this to me, I know that she has so much trust and love for them. Sometimes when they arrive she is standing at the door waiting for them as she looks out her window.  It seems that they have become her lifeline.

This past weekend Elaine told me that they were taking my mom to a baby shower. "Great", I replied. When I spoke to mom she sounded quite sharp and aware. I could tell that this was a good day for her. "Mom I hear that you will be going to a baby shower". Mom quickly answered making a joke, saying that she had already taken a shower(which was true) and was not going to go. "Mom you should go you'll have a lovely time". With strong conviction she replied, that she did not feel like going, and that she'd rather stay home.

The next day I asked Trudy how the baby shower was, and with curiosity I wanted to know how did they ever get my mom out of her house. She confided in me, that to get my mom out of her house, what they will say to her is,"come Ruth follow us." Somehow, Ruthie seems to always follow. When she realizes that they are going in a car, instead of for a walk, she then asks if they will be coming back soon. Of course they say yes, and off they go. They do trick mom a little, although we are pleased that they are getting Ruthie out of her home.

After they were at the baby shower for several hours, my mom then quietly asked if they could leave and go back home . So they packed everything up and off they went . I'm sure that after a stimulating day, my mom had a great nights sleep.

My brother and I love that they not only take such wonderful care of mom, but that they bring her with them to birthday parties, fourth of July fireworks, Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations, as well as their own family barbecue's.  In some strange ways, they seem to have adopted her, and she has become part of their family.

When I think about all the things that they do for my mom, and how they care for her with such kindness and understanding, that not only are they Ruthie's angels, they have also become mine. I wonder what would we ever do without them?