Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Happy Days

Based on my previous posts, it probably seems that everything about my Mom and her Alzheimer's is utterly depressing these days. Today I am here to tell you that it is not. There are good days, even great days, and since Alzheimer's is so hard most of the time, I want share two stories about Mom that are wonderful.

Funny how a day can change things. One day I went in to see Mom and she was sad and crying. We sat and talked, we walked and talked, and I tried to console her and make sense of her confusing world. That was hard. I stopped in the next day to see my Mom and to return her laundry and she was a new woman. As I rolled her laundry hamper in, she was dancing with Gordon, the activities director. Old hits from the 50's were playing. My Mom grew up in the 50’s. She was born in 1940, so these tunes were right from her teenage era and she just couldn't get enough.

I sat and watched. She had not seen me yet and I wanted to soak in her spirit, her joy. She was so happy to hear again the music she had first heard when she was young. I went and quickly put her laundry away. She was still unaware that I was there. This is an interesting position to be in. I think of it like this- do you ever have a time when you wish you could observe someone just to truly see who they are when you are not around? I get to do this with my Mom. I can sit in the same room and observe her- see her joy, her confusion, or her determination, depending on the day. This day was the same. 

So, for two or three songs I watched her dance around, still easily following the rhythm and trying to sing along to some of the songs. Then Gordon waved me over and she saw me. Today she knew who I was. With a, "Hey hon! How are you?", I wandered over, hugged her, and gave my introduction that I always do- "Hi Mom. It's me, Molly, your daughter." She responded, "Of course it is!" 

Then we danced. We scooted around to the old classics, smiling, singing the lyrics and just living in the moment...and what a magical moment it was. It was as if I almost had her back, only better. Sure we were in a locked down ward. Sure she was wearing pants that weren't hers, who knows where she got them. But we were laughing and dancing and loving life right then. I never remember my Mom being that carefree, even before Alzheimer's. Heaven. 

And then there was yesterday. I, Jason, and the kids attended a Christmas dinner at her facility. When we came in she brightened up, smiling, hugging the kids and me. Then she spotted Jason. Man, does she love Jason these days. During the hug, she lingered for a little longer and squeezed him a little tighter. I got her plate and we sat to eat. She talked incessantly about nothing. The thing that she would not stop talking about was Jason. "You are so young! You look so great!” Then I would get a, "Well, you do too, of course, but he looks so young! I can't believe it! You are so lucky!" 

Jason smiled and laughed and enjoyed all the attention. I told him that if he ever was having a bad day, he ought to stop over and talk with my Mom, because when he is around, it is all about him. All about how handsome he is. All about how young he looks. All about him. 

At one point she was getting a little restless. She wanted to get up and walk because that is what she does-walk. All the time. She stood up, but then I said, "Mom, you should really sit down. Santa is bringing around gifts. They are going to have one for you!" 

"Really?! For me?!" she said as her entire demeanor changed. The restlessness was replaced with child-like joy and anticipation. She could hardly stand to wait to get her gifts. When they came, she took a picture with Santa and dug in to the wrappings. Her chocolates, coffee table book, and camisoles could have been broccoli, dirty socks, and bills. She wouldn't have cared. She was aglow. 

When people talk about holding on to the good days, these days are what it is all about. They help wipe the slate a bit cleaner. They cancel out just a few of the times that hurt so deeply. Thank goodness for these days.