Being There

“Is my butt bigger than that girl’s butt?” my mom asked, pointing at a passing woman.

We were in the Hebrew Home sculpture garden, celebrating Grandparents Day with a couple hundred residents and guests.

I almost knocked us both over trying to get behind my mom to look at her butt, so that I could answer the question. I don’t know where my head was.

Obviously, I should have just said, “No, of course your butt isn’t bigger than that girl’s.” But for some reason, I didn’t.

I haven’t been thinking very clearly, or feeling very present, when I visit my mom these days.

More and more of what she says just doesn’t make sense.

“I lost it,” she said a little later.

“What did you lose?”

“The … thing … smitchit.”

“You didn’t lose anything, Mom.” I didn’t know what she was talking about. “You must have left it in your room.”

“Okay,” she said. “But now we can’t sing.”

“Sing? What do you mean?”


“You said we can’t sing. Why can’t we sing?”

“Well, how can we do it without that?”

I shrugged and tried to let it drop.

But it’s hard because more and more, our conversations sound like this. Words that aren’t real. Sentences that break down midway through a thought. Thoughts that bear no relationship to what’s happening around us.

My friend Nancy’s two-year-old daughter Rayne is making new neural connections every second of every day. Her hungry brain gobbles up whatever she hears. Everything Nancy says matters so much, because this wise and growing child is investing it with meaning.

My mom forgets everything I say. And nothing has any meaning.

I’m resisting this disease again, just like I did in the earlier stages, when it started to progress from mild to moderate. My mom was reverting to the past, asking questions that were no longer relevant. I wanted to keep telling her the truth, even when the truth was painful and she didn’t need to hear it.

“How is my mom?” she would ask.

“Grandma died 45 years ago.”

She grieved it anew each time I told her.

I wasn’t trying to be cruel. I just wanted her to continue to live in the real world. I wasn’t ready to give her up to Alzheimer’s.

But I realized there’s no point in fighting Alzheimer’s. And then I learned that I didn’t have to give her up if I just let her take the lead.

“How is my mom?” she would ask.

“She’s great.”

“Oh, I’m so glad.”

“Me, too. She’s doing remarkably well.”

And that was just the beginning. I went along with every scenario her mind could dream up, becoming a master at improvisation. Escorted by Alzheimer’s, she took us to places we’d never been.

It helps me to remember that.

Now we’re approaching another bend in the road, and I don’t want her to leave me behind. Resistance is pointless, and painful, and lonely. For both of us.

I’ll learn baby talk if I have to. I’ll rejoice when she makes no sense and repeat her made-up words. I’ll laugh with her and cry with her, and we’ll dance in our seats. We’ll sing until the words stop coming, and then we’ll hum. And nothing will ever have meaning again. But I’ll be there, wherever she is, and so will she, until she physically can’t be there any more.

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 Being There

  1. Jo says:

    My mother has vascular dementia. Its not alzheimer’s but it looks and acts like it. She’s in the early stages and hides her circumstances well by pretending to remember things, or by not taking part in conversations she cannot follow. She doesn’t hide when it comes to me, which is good. 20, 30 times a day I am repeating things to her already discussed, answering the same questions, and so forth. I never say, “don’t you remember, mom”, or “I already told you that”. I try to be patient, and it’s hard sometimes. I am a writer and I would love to write a blog like you to discuss what mom and I are experiencing but at this stage of her disease she would be mortified if I revealed her truth. I enjoy reading your blog posts very much and wonder if your mom’s present is my mom’s future. Time will tell. Thank you for sharing your personal journey, Joanne

    • daughter3 says:

      Hi Joanne, thank you so much for your message. I’m sorry that your mother is experiencing vascular dementia. It sounds like you are taking a very sensitive approach to interacting with her. I know how hard it is to be patient when someone tells you the same things repeatedly, but if you can manage to be patient, it’s helpful. Of course, some days it’s easier than others. I’m very thankful that my mom has generally been a happy dementia patient. I hope the same thing for your mom. Thanks so much for reading my blog.

  2. curvyroads says:

    Beth, seeing your Mom’s progression through your beautiful words is sad, but you are taking the best approach. Just be there for her, hold her hand and love her, and live in her world. I’ve been through all these similar changes with my mom, and while heartbreaking if you look at the big picture, if you can just be present with her, it will make all the difference for you both. Hugs, Lynne

  3. Anne Irwin says:

    Just found your blog and look forward to reading the backlog. I’m 91 year old care giver to
    88 year old husband with Alzheimer’s. Will share more when I have time!?! Lots of family visiting

  4. laurajstein says:

    Hi Beth, thanks so much for your latest post. Sorry to hear that your mom is becoming more confused. That seems to be happening with my mom too. She is still able to play Scrabble though (I let her win). Best, Laura

  5. julienariman says:

    Beth, I love how you are saying “yes” to your mother’s mind’s requests. It’s such an inspiring example of being a “yes” versus trying to force your preferences on things.

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