I got a call from the Hebrew Home a couple of months ago.
“Your mother fell today,” said her doctor.
“Is she okay?” I asked.
“Yes, she’s okay, but she has a cut on her forehead. There was a lot of blood.”
“Is she upset?” I asked.
“She was just a little worried about all the blood on her hands.”
A sick sensation passed through me. I felt weakened, or like something inside of me fell.
Later that night, the Hebrew Home called again.
“Your mother fell,” an aide said.
“Again?!” I asked, and this time fear shot through me. That she should go from not falling at all to falling twice in one day was very distressing.
“Did they already call you about this?” the aide asked.
“I got a call earlier that she fell this afternoon. Did she fall again?” I asked.
“No. She fell just once.”
“Thank God,” I said.
I hadn’t visited her the previous weekend, thereby allowing two weeks to pass between visits. Sometimes I do that to give myself a break. It’s hard to visit every weekend.
But this time I regretted it, magically thinking that by missing my visit I’d somehow offered her less protection than usual. As if a two-hour weekly visit from me is what has kept her on her feet.
When I arrived the weekend after the fall, she wasn’t in the TV room or at her table. Donald was sitting alone. Thinking she was probably in her room, I made my way down the hall to find her.
I saw her standing across from the nurse’s station, leaning against the wall, her hair a wild mess, a worried and far-away look in her eyes, one of which was black from the fall.
She had a confused look on her face as I approached.
“Are you . . . my brother?” she asked.
“No, Mom. I’m Beth,” I said.
“Oh, Beth!” she said, and started to cry. It was a mixture of sadness and relief, and she wept and wept.
“It’s okay, mom,” I said. I hugged her.
“I think I’ve decided I want to go home to my mom,” she said.
“Okay, Mom,” I said. “We’ll do that later. But now, let’s go into your room.”
“I’m so glad you’re here,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
We went into her room, and she dried her tears. She went to the bathroom. Then I took her to the Sunday concert.
She seemed to enjoy sitting next to me in the large music-filled room. But she was a little less secure and stable.
I was so upset after that visit, convinced it was the beginning of the end for her. She seemed so fragile, as if the slightest thing could make her fall to the ground.
I got a call today from Gemma, the nurse practitioner who gives me a monthly report on my mom.
“Your mom was sitting at her table holding a bunny,” she said. “It’s a stuffed bunny. When you press it, it sings, ‘Jesus loves me.'”
“She got it at the church service on Easter Day,” I said.
“Oh,” she said. “Well, she had that bunny and she was singing with it.”
I smiled. She’s been playing with the bunny ever since she got it.
“And she thinks whatever man happens to be at her table is her husband. If only it could be that easy for me,” Gemma said. “Yeah, your mom is happy. She has no complaints.”
Alzheimer’s is like the weather. One day a storm; another day a mild sun with a gentle breeze.