Eight years, yes, it has been eight years since my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. That is a long frickin’ time to deal with a disease, especially one that likes to throw surprises at me. Just last week, it had another one.
Lately, when people have asked, “How is your mom doing?” I really am not sure what to answer. Most people are asking out of love and a bit of curiosity, but they probably don’t really want to hear the details. And I am not going to give them, at least not in this post. I want to focus on the miracles of the disease. So, here is the Reader’s Digest version of how things have been going lately.
My mom is in a wheel hair. Not the standard type, but a fancy one-a wheelchair that has a lot of padding and can recline. She doesn’t walk anymore. She needs help to be fed. She has to have supplemental shakes because she is losing too much weight and her two favorite words are “yea” and wow.” “Yea” seems to be her way of trying to be part of a conversation and have something to say or answer a question. “Wow” is a statement of excitement or her way of expressing that she really likes something.
These days, when I go to visit her, I do a number of things with her to pass the time. I tell her what is going on in my life. I let her know what the kids are up to, what sports they are playing or what their special interests are these days. I talk about the weather outside, the holidays, or anything that I think she might find interesting or could possibly, by some miracle, understand. I have a playlist of music I made for her and some days I play songs for her and sit back and watch her smile, and I listen to her try to sing. If there is music playing in the ward, I will sing to her and hold her hands and chair dance with her.
And I am lucky. Almost every time I go to visit her, just after I squat down in front of her, touch her arm and say, “Hi Mom, it’s Molly. How are you today?” she will turn her head and I will receive a huge smile and a twinkle in her eye because she knows who I am. Yes, she knows who I am. Call me crazy. Think that I am holding on to something I shouldn’t be, but she does not give this reaction to anyone else but me. I realize she doesn’t understand what a daughter is, but she knows I love her in a special way and this is what matters.
On to the surprise. Alzheimer’s disease is totally unpredictable. You never know what may surface and when. So, after months of her saying nothing or only getting those two lone words from her, I got lots more.
My son and I went to see Mom before I went out of town for a week and he was leaving for camp for a month. My son knows you can’t expect any interaction from Mom, so we went in with no expectations. We walked in, I squatted down and said, “Hi Mom, it’s Molly,” and before I could get the rest out, she turns her head and says, a smile broad across her face, “Well, hi! It is so great to see you!”
This was the beginning of a perfect visit. She held our hands, sang, and chair danced with us. My son and my mom shared a treat, and when I gave her a hug and told her I loved her, she responded, “ Yea. Awwww, isn’t that nice.” Two sentences in one visit!
Where it comes from and what made it come out, I don’t know. It may not seem like much to some, but it was exactly what I needed. Just when it has become harder and harder to go back for a visit, the disease gives me a break. The universe reminds me who Mom is and helps me to keep fighting the fight, right by her side.
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