The Sunday before Thanksgiving, the weekly concert at Hebrew Home was held in the library instead of in the large, open concert hall where it’s usually held. The closed-off quarters of the library made for a more focused, even more sacred, experience. That was a good thing, because they were featuring a serious pianist, and he was playing Chopin beautifully.
I arrived late, so I had to sneak in. I found my mom toward the back of the room, seated next to the other ladies from her unit, all of whom had been escorted there by an aide. There was no seat next to my mom, and no chair to be found in the entire room, but there was a small space between my mom and a woman in a wheelchair. I’m thin, and that space was just big enough for me, so I slid down and seated myself on the floor.
My mom looked down at me lovingly and caressed my hair, resting her hand on my shoulder. I reached up to hold her hand.
“Oh Bethy, you can’t see,” she said. It was true; I couldn’t see the piano, or the musician’s figure, or the movement of the keys. But I could hear the rich chords of the piano that filled the room, so I told her it didn’t matter. When I looked up, her beaming face brightened the room, and that was all I needed to see.
“You can’t see, Bethy,” she said again. “Why don’t you sit on my lap?” As if I were a young child. I paused a moment and shook my head. Then, sitting at her feet, I rested my head against her hand, almost on her lap, as if I were a young child.
In those moments, accompanied by a rich and evocative soundtrack, both my mom and I were transported back in time — I to my childhood, and she to another time in her life, maybe to her early years as a mother to me, maybe to some other period.
As long as the music played, Alzheimer’s played with her memory, with our memories. Instead of memory loss, it felt like memory gain, time travel to a place we could never have revisited without the disease.
On the surface, there are few things to be thankful for when it comes to Alzheimer’s. This was one of them.