She’s Still Mom–Even With Alzheimer’s


In December 2010 after a fall on the sidewalk and a hit to her head and face, doctors ordered a CT (computerized tomography), scan of mom’s brain. This CT scan was the first confirmation that mom had mild Alzheimer’s disease.

alzheimers-awareness-brain-scan

This was also about the time that mom had driven herself to church (just three miles away and only a couple of turns) and got lost trying to drive home.  And, about the time when mom and I had our first ever argument–and it was over next to nothing.

In fact, we have since learned that Alzheimer’s begins with changes in the brain that are happening while people are still cognitively normal, decades before any signs of memory or thinking problems. A person diagnosed with any one of the 10 types of Alzheimer’s and dementia goes through 7 stages that affect the quality of their lives and the lives of their loved ones. People with Alzheimer’s live four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years, depending on their other health factors.

So here we are, entering our seventh year after mom’s diagnosis.  But the real reason I sat down to write this post was to give thanks for the good day that mom and I spent together yesterday.  It began as a typical Thursday.  Helping her select clothes and get dressed, combing her hair, and giving her time to apply makeup and, of course, waiting on her repeated visits to the bathroom before leaving and switching her home oxygen to her portable oxygen and then helping her walk to the car.  And, of course, observing the “goodbye kiss” ritual that she and dad never fail to forego before leaving home without the other.

Bob had taken mom to and from her 10 a.m. hair appointment as he always does and we had eaten lunch together as a family as we usually do.  Next, it was off to mom’s hematologist  appointment to check the status of her iron (she suffers from iron deficiency anemia, too, and has been receiving treatment for this for about 15 years).  On our 20-minute ride to her appointment, mom and I typically chat about the beautiful or sometimes rainy days.  She teared up over seeing a deer that had been hit and killed by a car and was laying just off the side of the road.  Once inside the reception area she became very socialable and we enjoyed a philosophical conversation with another patient while they waited their turns to see the doctor.

Several nurses came and went while we were inside the examination room.  Nurse Chris escorted us into the room and weighed and measured mom.  They struck up a lively conversation and we all had a few laughs over just little things that came up; e.g., how mom has gone from 5’2″ to just 5′ and 1/2.”  We sang a few lyrics from the song “5’2″ eyes of blue, could she love, could she woo,” has anybody seen my gal?”

Mom also played a guessing game with Nurse Janice about their ages and similar life events when they each had attended elementary school.  (Neither of us would have guessed that Janice was the age she revealed.) When asked, mom also told Nurse Chris that she didn’t know if I thought of her as my best friend, but I was hers and that she could always count on me–a very special moment. I reassured her that she was my best friend, too.  And, as a mother always does, she added that, in fact, she has three grown children and she loves and is proud of them all.

Also in keeping with her norm (pun intended–short for Norma), when we’re leaving the examining area, mom always says goodbye to all of the nurses.  They told her how cute she is and to take good care of her “feisty” self.  She told them that she would and added:  “My husband and I go dancing every Saturday night at the Knights of Columbus.  We just love to dance.  And as long as we both can still breathe, we’re going to keep on dancing.”

Although they used to attend regular dances at the Knights of Columbus, they haven’t been able to dance in years.  But, on their granddaughter’s wedding day they put down their canes and walkers to dance this dance on February 21, 2016.

On our return trip home mom was looking at all her wrinkles and the bruises on her arms and hands (she bruises easily from her blood thinning medicines).  She said if she didn’t know better she would think that she had punched my father–and then she giggled and went on to say:  “You know,” your dad and I have been together since we were young teenagers and met when we started our part-time summer jobs at ages 14 and 15.”  “We have lived a very long life together, have had many great times and some difficult times but sometimes he can be just so irritable and cranky–we even used to call him “Cranky Frankie,” but, “I love that man!”

Yes, I am thankful for all the years that the Lord has allowed me to spend with my parents–the great times and the difficult times, and pray that when their time comes to an end here on earth that He will take them swiftly to end their daily suffering by being debilitated by Alzheimer’s.

I leave you with the following for those readers who have been fortunate enough not to have Alzheimer’s affect their lives or the lives of their loved ones.

Some Facts about Alzheimer’s

Ob La Di, Ob La Da . . . Life Goes On!


It’s been over a month since I last posted–an unusually long time for me to step away from family history and happenings. If you read my September 19th post, you will recall that I wrote about recent “Tumultuous, Terrific, Tragic, and Treasured Times . . .” Life still is going on, often out of my control, but God still is in charge, and in Him I trust.

Roy, Joanne, and Mam-ma's Boston Bull - About 1949

Roy, Joanne, an Mam-ma’s Boston Bull – About 1949

Today brings back a couple memories–a dichotomy of memories if you will. You see, 61 years ago today, October 24, 1955, my maternal grandfather Robert Gideon Ford, “Roy,” as most called him passed away in our living room while we weren’t at home. I was just about 60 days shy of my ninth birthday and in third grade. Roy called us at my aunt’s where we were visiting, just about half an hour away from our home. He and his son, Johnny, had traveled from upstate New York to pick up the remaining items following their move from Glenndale, MD, to Beaver’s Dam, Elmira, New York–just a few short weeks before. He told dad he had indigestion and was thinking about “stealing” one of his last beer’s from the refrigerator. Only minutes later my uncle called us back to say that Roy had taken a swallow of beer and then fell off of our couch. Turns out his indigestion was a heart attack and he passed on, on our living room floor. Roy and I were very close. I’m told as an infant, that Roy called me “pudd’n” and “pumpkin head.” I was born six weeks premature and I had no hair on my head, eyebrows, or eyelashes on my eyelids. I spent most weekends with my grandparents on their farm and enjoyed every minute of time together with them and my uncle Johnny and his house filled with five other children. We helped plant vegetables, climbed and pulled fruit from the trees, dug up potatoes, pulled vegetables from the garden just before meals, walked around barefoot, including into the chicken coop, to get eggs that the hens had laid, got chased by a bull while we were bent over picking strawberries, played hide ‘n’ seek in the dark, and sat outside on the screened-in porch and counted the number of cars on the trains as they passed by just outside the yard. Yes, it was difficult for me to understand and to cope with Roy’s absence, but he and my grandmother enter my thoughts nearly every day. They suffered and survived many difficulties and hardships together–about 30 years, I’d say. Roy was only 57 years old at the time of his death. I still love and miss him, and hold onto to so many fine memories of this man who didn’t attend church, but paraphrased 1 Peter 3:10 “If you can’t say anything nice about people, don’t say anything at all.”

Now, let’s fast forward about nine years and a happier time in my life. It’s October 24, 1964, and I’m approaching my 18th birthday in early January. I started working part-time in my senior year of high school and I’m dating a 20-year-old marine who I met at work. When we were first introduced I could feel my skin melting, my knees shaking, and my stomach quivering. I just knew my parents wouldn’t approve and the chances would be slim that we would ever date. I was wrong, but they weren’t all that eager about it either. It was a whirlwind love affair that began at first sight. With me still attending school and him stationed at Quantico, our dating was confined to weekends–mostly with friends after the store closed on Friday nights at the home of the more mature workers. And, it was in North Forestville, among our friends, when we sat off to the sideline and became engaged. I was so stunned by the proposal, that nothing could bring me down off of “cloud nine.” Not even my mom. In 1964, October 24th was the night the clocks were turned back from daylight savings time to eastern standard time. My curfew was set at 1:00 a.m. Well, we pulled up to the curb outside my home and we were talking about this being the anniversary of my grandfather’s death and our plans for our future, and when and how we would break the news to my family.

March 27, 1965

March 27, 1965

Suddenly, my petite mom comes out from inside our house to the car and yanks the door open, grabs me out, and says in a very angry and stern voice, “Good Night, Mr. Dickinson!” As she’s pulling me by my arm into the house, I’m being asked if I knew what time it was, and what do I think the neighbors will be talking about tomorrow. Turns out, we had been outside my home in the car at the curb for an hour–but the clocks had been turned back, so it was still 1 o’clock. She wasn’t buying it, thought I was being smart, and she wanted to do battle. She went so far as to tell me that “You think you’re being smart not talking to me when I’m talking to you. Well, young lady, you haven’t heard the last of this!” Unlike other boyfriends Bob wasn’t scared off by my parents. I’m not sure why, but he returned the next day and he talked (hiding behind a newspaper) about marrying me. All my dad had to say was “Well, Good Luck, cause you’re going to need it!” My mom said, “Frank! Is that all you have to say!” And, that was it. Of course, mom interrogated me after every date, and if the facts be known, we married sooner than we had planned because the tension was just too much for me to deal with. And, here we are 52 years later, loving each other and life more than ever, and still chuckling over our engagement night. Our eldest son will celebrate his 50th birthday in December and his eldest son, just shy of 30, is a first-time father of a newborn son and posting about “cleaning up puke, poopy bottoms, and getting peed on,” by both his infant and his 8-week-old shepherd pup! Ob la di, ob la da, and life goes on . . .