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?”
“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 …”
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.