Friday, February 22, 2013
MY SPECIAL VALENTINE
At one time it was quite difficult to have mom leave her home, although she now appears to enjoy going out with “the ladies”.” Mom, I hear that you are going dancing today.” She responds that when her friends take her out she will always go. She chirps in with “it’s always good to have fun and it’s even better to get out.” “Yes mom, I totally agree with you.” Yet I must admit that whenever she is out, she only wants to go back home. That’s the disease speaking, surely not my mom.
Before mom got Alzheimer’s she was someone that always went out. She walked each day for exercise, swam in the swimming pool in her community, went to lectures at her clubhouse, and participated in different women’s group.
One of the first signs of her having Alzheimer’s was when she became all confused about the clubs and lectures starting over again after the summer came to an end. I should have realized then that something was happening to her. Could I have been in a state of denial ? Her younger brother already had Alzheimer’s, yet not my mom. The thought never even occurred to me.
Mom expressed to me that she wished that I lived near her, so that I could come by and sit down and visit with her. How I wish I did, yet this is impossible. Sometimes she thinks she lives in New York and other times, she knows that she left here many years ago. I’m not even sure if she understands the distance that lies between us.
Life has its funny ways of turning out. Sometime’s what may seem so tragic can in some strange way be a turning point is someone’s life. For me I was given a second chance to have such an unconditional love for my mother. It was not always like this, yet so many years have transpired since she became ill, and my deep love and affection for her have only grown.
Life is a gift. Love is also a gift, and hearing her say to me as we hang up the telephone, “I love you and I love your kisses,” only makes me realize again how very fortunate I am. She really is my sweetheart and my special Valentine.
Friday, February 15, 2013
Each day when I speak to my mom she usually stays on the phone for five to ten minutes, depending on whether she can concentrate or not. Some days we are able to enjoy the melodies that we sing together, or have our spelling bee's, that mom surprisingly is still very good at.
One day this week my mom did not want to get off the phone as she entusicastically rambled on. This has not happened for quite some time. She sounded alive and upbeat, yet what she described no longer exists in her world . As we shared different sentiments mom laughed out loud and seemed to be really enjoying herself.
She was amazed at how old she was, and thought that she looked much younger. Several times she said she did not want to remember her age. She felt young and hearing how old she was meant that she could soon die. Nothing she spoke about came from any dark corners and all her stories that she chatted about, were upbeat and filled with humor. Even more they seemed to make sense.
Mom kept telling me that it was a very long time since she saw her parents, explaining that this is because they do not live nearby. She was surprised and wondered if I could believe that she could not remember their faces. I tried to tell her that they were no longer alive, and if they were, they would be at least 125 years old. She passed right over what I said, and continued to delight herself with her repartee.
In between all her syllables she would question me where I now live. Of course, I continuously said New York and when I asked where she lived, she giggled and answered that she lived in her "home". She remembered growing up in New York and some other parts of the city.
Mom was really having a jolly good time. I enjoyed her aliveness and how delightful she was sounding. My husband thought that she sounded a little manic, yet I on the contrary believe that she was having glimpses of her life, and memories of her childhood. The images were firing so quickly in her brain that she just had to say anything that flashed through her mind.
Mom was alive today in a different way, from what her life normally sounds like. She was jovial and filled with enormous energy . Most Alzheimer patients cannot share what they are feeling or thinking because the feeling and thoughts quickly disappear, like the wave of a wand. Today my mom's memory blanket was fully charged. She knew that she had two children and named me as well as my brother.
She asked me several times when I was coming to visit, insisting that New York and Florida were next to one another . She was sure that if I looked into it I would also discover the closeness of these two states. I shared with her that we were having a snow storm and she asked me to remain inside, so I would be safe. She was surprised that she had no snow, not fully understanding the difference of climates from Florida to New York.
With all this said she took my breath away, and I then reflected on how mom could no longer do the simple things in her life. She would no longer take a shower on her own, nor brush her teeth, nor put on clean fresh clothes. She cannot work a microwave, the stove, or her washing machine. She does not know how to dial the telephone,and when she removes food from her freezer she leaves it out all night, only to be thrown out in the morning hours by her caregiver.
Her life is not the same and all her precious memories have disappeared. Yet on most days mom's enthusiasm and cheerfulness emanates from her. She appears to love and appreciate just being alive. Some of us can take a day for granted, yet she seems to own that each day is truly a gift. I say this because although she cannot recall much, she repeats many times, that if we have our health nothing else matters.
This special lady who stands under five feet tall lights up my life and inspires me each day with her strength and courage. Everything that she described today was from a very long time ago. A life that once was, and to mom, seems not to have existed at all. What I hope for is that whatever happens in my life, I too, can feel love and appreciate just being alive.
Friday, February 8, 2013
Mom and I did not always have such a loving relationship. I'm not exactly sure how, where or when things had changed. Yet when I think back to my childhood, my teenage years and after I became a mother myself, I can remember some wonderful times we were able to share together. I can also remember the flip side of how our personalities clashed and some of our battles.
My husband believes that my mother's Alzheimer's probably started back then, when the fights got extremely intense. For me I was so involved in "being right" that I could not step away long enough to realize what was transpiring. That was then and this is now.
Ruthie has become my hero, and her spirit lights up my life almost everyday. Of course there are some days when her Alzheimer's takes over, and it can be difficult to have a conversation with her. Yet on most days I am still able to admire and respect her "joie de vie" about life.
The last several weeks my mother has continuously brought up how important it is that we have our health. She makes sure to add in that this is all that matters. Although she is correct, I also had this burning desire to share with her that something else was more important to me. I explained to her that it was about all the love that I felt for her.
She questioned me on how much do I love her. "Mom, I love you more than anything else in this world." She then so tenderly spoke these words, "that's lovely because I feel the same way about you."
At that moment my heart melted, and I could feel with all my body and soul how much love I had for her. Without mom getting sick I wonder if our relationship, that was once bittersweet would have ever blossomed. Would I have been able to discover this feeling of deep love and affection towards her ?
I wish that I could make her free of Alzheimer's ,yet I cannot. I cherish that I was given a second chance to love her so completely. My emotions for her are filled with a never ending love and affection .
It's funny how life can change, how what might look like a tragedy could also in a strange way be an opportunity. At one time I would have wanted someone else's mom to be my mother ,and today I would never trade her, for any other mother in the world. It feels magical to me, for I now can embrace every second that I am able to celebrate life with her.
Friday, February 1, 2013
ENLIGHTENED OR SIXTH SENSE?
If we asked hundreds of people what the meaning of life was for them, I'm sure there would be many different answers. I do not want to get to philosophical about it, yet after several conversations this week with my mother, I could not help to think about the meaning of life. I'm sure that it includes our loved ones, our spouses and of course our children. Yet for mom on most days she does not even understand that she has a grandson, and one that she so adored.
Mom is showing new signs of diminishing as a "whole" person. She has become lost for even knowing the simplest things. Her words at moments are so disconnected from there meanings. Just the other day she could not understand the connection of the phone cord and the phone, as she tried to describe the rope hanging from the wall. I shared with her about how our voices travel to each other through the telephone. She could not comprehend this once familiar instrument.
With the arrival of her new couch that was replacing her chair she described it by calling it a turkey. She realizes something is different yet she cannot figure it out. The chair she had owned for twenty six years all but disappeared. Thankfully, I was able to know what she was speaking about, although at that moment, I could not find much humor in it.
Each day at the end of our phone calls we always exchange our daily kisses . We have been doing this for years. These are the kisses that I cherish and never take for granted. Not this day, for the very first time she refused to throw me my kisses. Is this an awakening call to me, that her Alzheimer's was progressing?
As if mom had a sixth sense knowing that I was concerned, she became once again alive and returned back to "life". Elaine her caregiver had told me that while they were having breakfast mom wanted to know if she was eating an egg. This did put a smile on my face just hearing this silly little question of hers. The question of the egg for me became the symbol that her world was reopening .
Mom got on the phone with a reawakening in her description of how she use to live in New York. She remembered after moving to Florida that she still came up to visit us. I had mentioned that we were having a few snow flakes and she added, " please drive carefully so that I could make sure that you will be safe." She continued to tell me this was the most important thing along with our health.
I have noticed that whenever mom returns back to "life", she always speaks about our health and how important it is. She reminds me, without this, we have nothing. So for her the meaning of life lies within how fortunate we are to have our health and to wake up each morning .
As the week came to an end and mom enthusiastically threw me my kisses, she shared with me how lucky we both were, since we were" in love." At that moment she became enlightened ,and my heart was enormously filled with deep affection. This for me, signified the meaning of life.