My mom has been battling Alzheimer’s for many years now; I have sort of lost count. We started to notice it probably about 10 years ago give or take. It’s funny how when we first noticed it, we would get so frustrated by the things she would do, like ask the same question a million times over. A million times is hardly an exaggeration. If you know anyone with Alzheimer’s, you know what I mean!

We’d be driving from our house to church, a drive we took at least once a week, and we’d cross the same river we crossed countless times.

“What is this place called? Does this place have a name?”

She’d also ask this about any neighborhood we drove through. And we’d all just internally be like, “MOM, NO, IT DOESN’T HAVE A NAME, IT’S JUST A NEIGHBORHOOD.” Obviously, we would NEVER say that to her. We’d all search on our phone map apps to see if there was some interesting answer we could give her.

“Oh yep, this neighborhood is called Elder Neighborhood.”

That would satisfy her for a few minutes, until she’d ask again. Looking back, it’s funny how annoying it was. Sometimes we could make things up. She mainly wanted to be heard and engaged with and treated like the incredibly intelligent woman that she was. Even though this terrifying, horrible, tragic disease was turning her into a child a little more every day, and even causing her to forget she had Alzheimer’s, we never let on anything was wrong. Every time she asked a question, it was the first time for her, so we answered like we’d never heard the question before.

She used to fixate on the mountains on the edge of our city and comment on the blue sky or the green trees. Always fixated on colors. She’d notice cars that were bright yellow or red and explain to us how those were new car colors and how amazing it was that they were making cars with these new colors. Now, I find myself noticing new car colors too.

One of the most random things she would talk about was how tree roots were messing up a sidewalk. We’d go for a walk and come upon a broken uneven section of sidewalk and she’d launch into an explanation about how terrible it was that tree roots were doing this and did you know that it didn’t used to be like this? And that someone really should do something about it.

We’d nod along and agree, as if we were hearing it for the first time, “Yeah, for sure,” “No, really,” “Yeah, it’s really a shame.”

She doesn’t do any of these things anymore. She still talks a lot, in her own way, but she doesn’t say many actual words. There are words mixed in with her chatter, but mostly it’s a feeling she’s expressing, and we can all sort of follow along and respond appropriately. Yesterday, we were sitting side by side on the couch, and she was eating a bowl of fruit, and she looked at me.

“This is heavy!”

I laughed, “Yeah, Mom, it sure is!”

And she laughed and smiled. It makes me wish she could talk to me about the mountains and the sky and the cars and the sidewalk again, but I’ll take it.

She’s living in a really great memory care place, and she’s doing pretty well, considering. Everyone there loves her. We were in the elevator with the Marketing Manager, and he asked us who we were visiting, and when we told him, “Oh yes, Helga! She’s so sweet.” You cannot possibly forget a woman named Helga.

2 replies to “Mom

  1. A beautiful expression of your journey with your mom. I cried as your described what you miss. Thank you for sharing. It truly is a gift.

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