For Mom, what once was

As my mom moves ahead with Alzheimer’s, I find myself missing some of the earlier stages, when she still had some sense of who she was and some memory of her past life.

Many of those days were incredibly painful, more painful than now. But that’s the thing about looking back. You can do it the way they filmed Doris Day movies — with Vaseline on the lenses softening all the edges. You might still see the pain, but it’s hazy and gauzy and much less hurtful.

She used to say:
“What’s today’s date?”
“Whose birthday is coming up?”
“I married HIM? Is that why I’m using his name?”
“I think what I did today at school was probably all wrong.”
“How come your father doesn’t call me?”
“What do you mean all of my brothers and sisters have died?”

Now it’s:
“I’ve got to find out if I have a bed for tonight!”
“I’ve never been to this place before. It’s totally new.”
“I wanted to call you, but I didn’t know how. I kept thinking, what do I put on this paper to call you?”

It’s all about the moment these days, and she’s confused over the most concrete things, like trying to make a phone call with a piece of paper rather than a telephone.

Her life story is a big blank to her.

But I’m realizing that’s not so bad. I might miss her, but she doesn’t. Much of her pain is gone. Not just softened, but gone.

And yet, she is not gone. Her staying power is amazing, especially when compared to Kenneth’s. In the span of months, he is a ghost.

A man who was once roaming, walking, active and always trying to take control has shrunken, become immobilized.

What was once:
“Let me tell you, this is going to be absolutely beneficial to the problem, yes, and what do you think? We’re going to take the straddle position on this one, and the company will be doing much better …”

Has become:

A man confined to a wheelchair, staring down at a table, or burying his head in his arms.

A gradual, and then sudden erasure of a life.

My mom is lucky for so many reasons.

About daughter3

My mom has Alzheimer's disease. She's 91 and lives in a nursing home. She has three daughters. I'm her youngest.
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10 Responses to For Mom, what once was

  1. Hi Beth,

    Lovely, insightful and so moving as always. See you soon.



  2. laurajstein says:

    Hi Beth,
    Great writing! I hope your mom can stay settled in that same path where she
    seems to be content and happy. That is too bad about Kenneth, but at least he
    appears to have a led a full life and had some happy times with your mom!


  3. Nancy Shamban says:

    Glad you see how fortunate you are. xx

  4. curvyroads says:

    Oh Beth, again, you are able to articulate so much of what I am experiencing with my mom. Our changes are similar, her questions and concerns are different now, but my mom seems suddenly so happy, content, and all pain seems to have left her. Her verbal skills are slipping rather abruptly, but she is still able to raise her arms and sweep in all she can see and say “This is good!”

    She doesn’t really have anyone close to her that has declined as suddenly as Kenneth, and his story breaks my heart. I can only hope that he isn’t in pain anymore either.

    I have felt the same as you, missing the old Mom, but I have made peace with the fact that she does not and will not miss me, or anyone else. I still haven’t started my new dementia blog, but I wrote this on my existing blog several months ago, triggered by Glen Campbell’s beautiful video. If I have shared this before, I apologize, but thought you might be like me and cry, laugh, and then take some comfort in this:

    Take care,

    • daughter3 says:

      Lynne, thank you so much for sharing your post with me. It moved me. I am so glad you’re able to find more satisfaction in your relationship with your mom now than you were able to find before she had Alzheimer’s. It’s amazing how that can be, but as you know, I understand because it’s the same for me. Glen Campbell’s song is so sad. But at the same time, it’s comforting to know that his pain (and our moms’ pain) seems to be seeping away. I hope you start your Alzheimer’s blog. Thank you so much for reaching out!

      • curvyroads says:

        Beth, I am glad the post and Glen’s song moved you as well. Strange that something can be so sad and equally bring a level of comfort. I so enjoy your posts and every time I read one I think “oh yes, that’s the feeling, exactly!”

        I have found a lovely woman who is a retired RN and just does a few part time companion jobs by word of mouth, and she is going to be looking in on my mom while my husband and I do some traveling. We have recently retired and our dream has been to travel the US by motorcycle, without the limitations of two week vacations from work. It was an emotional struggle, but having watched so many people get sick or drop dead early, we made the decision to just do it. Finding mom’s companion through a friend sealed the deal as it seemed heaven-sent. So I don’t think I will be starting the new blog soon, as I will have a hard time just keeping up with my travel blog. 😉

        But should that change, I will let you know and definitely keep up with your blog! Hugs, Lynne

      • daughter3 says:

        Oh, Lynne, I am so happy for you! How fantastic that you’re starting this adventure and that you’ve found someone reliable to look after your mom so that you can do it! I’ll look forward to your blog in the future, and in the meantime, will think of you on the open roads. Have a fantastic time! Hugs, Beth

      • curvyroads says:

        Thank you so much, Beth. It was an emotional struggle, but the time is now, and we have to live while we can. Hugs back, Lynne

  5. Beth, thank you for this blog. We’re just starting down this journey with my mother, and I recognize her in some of the conversations you describe with your mom in all of your posts:

    “. . . it’s too hard to explain.” (Said as if I’d asked her to explain the origins of the universe, when I asked her something as simple as “Where’s Dad?” )

    “Do you have a birthday coming up?” (I just had one.) “Oh. Did I get you anything?” And yes, the many repetitions of eveyone’s birthdays, to be written down and forgotten.

    Your words resonate so clearly with me. Thank you. Thank you. I wish you and your mother peace. I’ll keep reading.

    • daughter3 says:

      Thank you so much for your comments. It seems there are so many people going through this. I always appreciate hearing from others who are sharing this journey. Thank you so much for reading! And I wish you and your mother peace as well.

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