Mondays With Mother: An Alzheimer's Story

In 2002 my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It is a hard road, and we live it one day at a time. This is a chronicle of her disease and my Monday visits with her.

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Name: Anne Robertson
Location: Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States
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Thursday, May 05, 2005


My apologies for being so late with the post this week. With the book publication and my upcoming move to Westford, Massachusetts, life is more hectic than usual.

But I did get to The Birches on Monday and, again, found Mother sound asleep. I went into the bathroom before waking her up and noticed that the cup which at one time held her toothbrush, toothpaste, and as many hairbrushes as she had collected on any given day was were the contents. I never did find the cup, but I eventually discovered the contents under a couple of beanie babies and some old tissues in a gift bag on the floor.

The beanie babies and other stuffed animals in her room seem to reproduce frequently. I don't know if others bring them as gifts or not. I do know that when I finally woke her and took her down the hall to lunch, she wanted to stop off in her new neighbor's room (Phoebe)to see a row of about four beanies lined up on the bed. Mother's collection was growing before Phoebe moved in, so they couldn't all have come from next door; but after preaching a sermon on coveting, I couldn't help but think that Phoebe had better keep an eye out for wayward beanie babies.

The lunch configuration had Mother and I at a table with Ruth, a sweet but generally only semi-conscious resident. Even in her semi-conscious state, however, she reached out for my blouse, which was a bold geometric print of blues, white, and black. The shirt was an instant hit around the room. Russell called out from his seat that he liked it, and after awhile Dot told me the same. Carl's wife was back in circulation.

Dot was with Russell and Frances this time and except for praise of my blouse, all was quiet in that corner. On the other side, however, at Eleanor's table, my peacemaker heroine from a few weeks ago, Eta, was causing quite a commotion over butter. She wanted butter. "Real butter." It wasn't like the staff was unwilling to provide it, but Eta was in no mood to wait for it. "I want butter. Real butter, and I want it now" she said, rolling her wheelchair out into the kitchen where the aides were trying to serve the rest of the residents.

Mother had just started on her salad when she looked troubled, stood up, and announced, "It's wet." So I took her back to her bathroom and we got that straightened out.

At dessert time, one of the staff came around to ask who wanted blackberry pie. A woman at the "mean table" decided that she did, so it was brought to her. "This is blue," she said. "These are not blackberries." For a few moments there was complete confusion until the aide recognized that she had misread the paper and it was indeed blueberry pie and not blackberry. Of course, s he had just offered everyone blackberry pie. She had just offered everyone in a facility for the memory impaired blackberry pie. Of course not a one of them forgot that she had said blackberry pie, and after quite a bit of different people shouting about blackberries or blueberries, the aide squatted down beside me and laid her head on the table in complete surrender.

It was very good pie.

The dinner had been either ravioli or turkey and they gave Mother some of both. She ate it all...second week in a row that she ate everything on her plate. I had them put ice cream on the suspect pie and she ate all of that, too.

Harold, like Mother, has trouble staying put if nothing is going on. So, during the blackberry/blueberry debate, he got up from the table behind us and wandered our way. He pointed at Mother. "He used to eat with me all the time, but he doesn't anymore." I looked at Mother to see if she looked particularly masculine today, but she didn't. "I don't know why he's not with me anymore," Harold continued. His mind then slipped back to a former time and it seemed that Mother had become one of his old buddies. He spoke to me, pointing at Mother. "He and I used to go down to the water and smoke our butts."

Of course if there ever was an anti-smoking crusader, it was my mother. I remember her back in the early days of non-smoking sections in restaurants. Every time she went into MacDonald's (which in our family was a lot), she would argue with the manager because they had designated only one booth as a non-smoking section. "That doesn't do a bit of good!" she would say in frustration. "Any booth I sit in is a non-smoking section!" It was amusing to have Harold be imagining her of all people as his old smoking buddy.

As we finished and got up from the table, Betty was putting on a coat to go outside. Mother looked confused. "She's going out to have a cigarette," I said. Mother grunted in disgust.

"It's been a strange day," said Harold. They're always finding me out somewhere and bringing me back here. They don't have to do that." I acknowledged that they didn't. "They probably just like having you around," I said, and Harold smiled.

Back in the room, Mother went into the bathroom again. After awhile I started hearing this knocking around, so I went to check. She was trying to open the cabinet below the vanity sink, which is kept locked...I guess so nobody messes up the plumbing. I asked her what she needed. "The lower part of my body," she answered. Clearly the lower part of her body was still attached, but after using the toilet, her shirttails were now all hanging out and coming down below her sweater.

It seems that standing there, looking in the mirror above the vanity sink, her mind equated the lower part of her body with the place directly below the mirror and she thought that to tuck in her shirt, she had to do something under the sink. I tucked in her shirt and she was fine.

She then went back into the bedroom and lay down on the bed, where she stayed until I left...perhaps dreaming of blackberry pie.


Blogger Gail Rae said...

1. My preference is for blackberries over blueberries any day. Demented or not, I would have been upset, too!
2. I love the part about your mother looking for the lower part of her body. It's pure poetry.

12:59 AM  

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