Monday, August 17, 2015

Hard Times

For Jackie Donaldson & Brooke Tetrault
In memory of Ruth Anne Trubitt 

Sometimes in life it is hard to do certain things. Lately it has been a struggle for me to write about my mom, partly because there has not been a lot to say, but the main reason is that writing would force me to confront my feelings.  If I don’t write about her I can avoid the emotions that come up around what is happening to her. I know that is not what I am supposed to do, but sometimes I can handle only so much. This time I chose to avoid it for a spell.

But then people started asking about my mom. I was asked, “How is she doing?” or “Is everything ok? You haven’t written anything lately.” And “Did I miss one of your posts? I haven’t seen anything about your mom in a while.” I could no longer avoid it. The story had stopped and readers were waiting for the next chapter. I honestly had six people in a matter of about two or three days ask me about her. These were not only expressions of concern from friends, but also a sign that it’s time, time to write again.

And thank you.  I appreciate hearing from you. It is good for me to talk about it, to confront the reality of it all. Thank you to those who helped pull me out of my safe bubble of avoidance. It was like being in my soft, warm bed, knowing that I have to get up and face the world, but I just want to stay safe just a little longer, simply because it is easier than facing the cruel reality awaiting me.

So here we go…

For a few months I had to force myself to visit her.  I was still visiting once a week, but it took all my will to get in my car and go visit. Each visit was much the same. The visits were full of me telling her anything I thought she might want to hear, helping feed her, and playing music for her.  What I got back was very little- a word here or there, a smile once in a while, but very little interaction. I had become sad and frustrated with our visits. Although I went into every visit with an upbeat attitude, I left each one a little more heartbroken.  Just as the disease takes my mom from me bit by bit, I was letting it take me as well.  I was letting the disease have the power.

Then, just before my son went off to camp for a month, we stopped in to visit Mom.  Jake was so excited to see her, although a little apprehensive to visit his grandma knowing what she might be like that day. You see, Jake has known his grandma through every stage of Alzheimer’s, and he remembers them.  He knew her when she would sing to him, rock him in the same rocking chair in which she rocked my sister and me when we were small. He knew her when she would take him to get a treat or on a walk, but he has also known her through every stage of the disease. He has seen her sit and cry. He has helped me when she was trying to eat Styrofoam plates. Jake has been present for every stage, and despite his age, at every stage he approached her with love, compassion, and patience. 

Jake and I walked up to Mom and I bent down in front of her and said my normal greeting of, “Hey Mom! It’s Molly. How are you today?” My mom turned to me, smiled her beautiful smile and said, “Well, hello! It is so great to see you!”

The silence was broken.

This visit was different from every visit I had with her the past few months. We all had a wonderful time, and it was what we all needed.  Jake needed to see his Grandma happy and doing well before he left for a month, and I needed to hear her voice.  I needed some sign, no matter how small, that my mother still exists. On that day, she was there.  Jake and I saw her and talked to her.

But soon the silence returned. The next visits were the same as before. That visit with Jake seemed to be an anomaly. No matter how much I said, how many things I brought up hoping to get a reaction from her, I barely got a word or two out of her.  These kinds of visits are tough, tough on the soul, and honestly, they can be boring.  I was constantly racking my brain for new things to say, music for her to listen to, or treats to take to her.  I had allowed visits to become stressful instead of accepting what they were and enjoying what I could.  This is what happens when you let the disease win. It takes your power, your hope.  But, despite all that, I kept going back, even when I didn’t want to go.

And then I got a reality check.

This week a friend’s family member with Alzheimer’s disease passed away. That was what it took to make me realize, once again, that my mom won’t be around much longer.  I cannot let the disease take away my joy and my gratitude for the time I get to spend with her.

Alzheimer’s disease will not steal my power. And so I resolve, again, to be strong, to be patient, to love unconditionally, and to keep going back to visit her, no matter what.

I am grateful for each time I get to visit her, hold her hand, and feel her soft skin. I am grateful that I get to feed her, take her treats, chair dance with her, and sing with her. I am grateful for each time I get to hear her voice, and I am eternally grateful for the support that I receive from family, friends, and the staff of the place where she lives. And sometimes I have to be reminded that there is no better time than now to remind her how much she is loved.