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.
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