I saw my Mom today. She was laying down in their bedroom when I got to my parents house, on her right side, as always. Her polio-riddled spine makes it too painful to lay any other way and she gets dizzy if she tries. I see her frail little body facing the wall, her sock feet, in her clothes and she is lost in the big queen-sized bed.
I slowly enter the bedroom so as not to startle her, and I walk around and see that her eyes are open, looking at Lord knows what….the shadow of the tree blowing behind the drapes, the navajo white wall, or it really could be anything with the way my Moms mind works these days. “Hi Mama” I say softly and rub her arm gently. Her eyes light up. Not the way they used to light up when she would get excited or see something wonderful….but the only way they know how to light up cloaking a mind of dementia. Possibly not even sure who I am at first. I know this.
You would think I would be used to my Mom’s Alzheimers by now, but every time I walk through the door to my childhood home, I never know which Mom I will see. The costume is always the same but it’s the face behind the mask that is ever changing. Today, she was tired but loving Mom….the loving part being my favorite. She got herself up slowly and we put on a sweater and got her slippers, and we sat outside together watching my Dad trim their orange tree in between breaks to catch his breath.
The mother I grew up with was MIGHTY. Never letting her small stature hold her back, she raised us kids while my Dad was deployed, taking care of business single handedly and never letting us get away with anything. My Mom worked full time my entire young life, and she never used polio or a lack of a college degree as an excuse for not succeeding in everything she tried. She was my rock. She was my compass. She was my pearl in the oyster.
Yeah thats me in the middle……crazy little kid.
When I was little, I thought my mother had the most beautiful hands…..long fingers, elegant, even when she held a cigarette (thankfully she quit a gajillion years ago). You never heard her New York accent until she talked to her “brotha” Bill or her friend Ruth on the phone. She would never wear shorts because she said she had chicken legs, and she would never wear a bathing suit because of her crooked back, and no amount of assuring her that no one cared would change her mind.
:Oh she used to be a pearl
Ohh yeah she used to rule the world
Ohhhh cant believe she’s become a shell of herself
Cause she used to be a pearl”
Alzheimers is the long slow goodbye, and I hate it. First it took her joy for life and made her scared. It took away her independence. We went from anger and denial to confusion and denial back to anger and now we are in “oh honey, I love you so much….I really mean it” . This part of the ride is bearable. Seeing her not remember her grandson’s name. Unbearable. Driving by the mall and remembering how much she loved to get in her car and go shopping angers me. Seeing me point to something and watch her look the other way breaks my heart.
“This is not my mother!” I shout to myself. My mother is gone. And then we are in Jimmy’s, her favorite place to have lunch. A woman walks in and….. let’s just say she is not the best looking lady, ok? My Mom is staring in that direction and all of a sudden my Mom says “Ewwwww”. I’m like “What?” lol Mama looks at me and says “Oops, sorry” and smiles. THAT is my mother!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! She IS in there. I feel her spirit, alive and well, when she comes up to me, hugs my head and rubs my hair like she did when I was little. The woman who always took care of us…..so in need of us now.
She is a pearl, lost at sea……and until she finds her way to the shore, she is safe.