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.

My Photo
Name: Anne Robertson
Location: Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States
Visit My Website

Memory Lane Webring

Saturday, August 20, 2005


It was my mother who taught me to love animals. She was the one who showed me how to stand as still as a statue, birdseed in my hand, so that the chickadees would feed from my fingers. She was the one who rescued the mice from the cats and gently took the spiders and wasps from my room and put them outside. She was the one who cared for all our various pets...the skunk, the turtles, the hamster, the dogs, the cats. I have a picture of her feeding a squirrel with her teeth. The raccoons came nightly to our door for treats until we got dogs.

And so I hope she understands, in that place where spirit communes with spirit, that I have not come this week because my dear Grace has died. I've put a memorial to her at Remembering how much trouble I had with my visits while in the fresh grief of moving, I don't think I can handle a visit as I mourn my companion of 11 years.

And so I miss her, but I know I would lose it walking into her room with the life-sized stuffed dog. We are gathering at The Birches on Labor Day to celebrate August birthdays (David and Ward), so that may be the next time I get there. I need a week without death.

She may not realize I have not come, but I feel it in my bones. And yet my heart of flesh is too broken to steel itself against the grief of a visit. Someday I will again feel the abundance that I know surrounds me even now. But for now, I see only the swirling vortex that has swallowed those I love.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


I know it's not theologically sound, but there are certainly times when life seems to conspire against us. Losses compound and come in multiples. Maybe it's a test of strength. Maybe there's some deep karma. Maybe I'm imagining things.

Last week my grandmother died. It was expected. She was 96, and had no quality of life. One can hardly call it tragic. (Although when I said something similar about my grandfather's passing at 92 last November, the pew of 90-somethings in the church voiced strenuous objection to the implied conclusion that they should be happy to up and kick the bucket any time now.)

In any case, the last of my grandparents is gone, and after a funeral here on Thursday for a church member, I traveled to Stratford, Connecticut last Friday and Saturday to conduct my grandmother's funeral. I came back Saturday night and preached here on Sunday morning.

I had re-thought my Monday luncheon dilemma by trying to see if I could simply take Mother out to eat on Mondays, instead of upsetting the applecart at The Birches. But I was too exhausted this past Monday to try it. But I had space at the end of the week so I thought I would head up to The Birches on Thursday, with the dog (Grace), and then get some R&R at the cabin through Saturday.

Adding to my exhaustion was interrupted sleep because Grace was having problems. She has thrown up from time to time, seemed to be uncomfortable lying down anywhere, and was generally draggy. So I knew if I went to the cabin, she'd have to come with me.

I thought at first that it was emotional trauma because I left her overnight to go to the funeral. It was the first night I have been away since moving down here and the first night she has spent without someone with her in the house for many years. I also knew she had a broken tooth, which has affected her eating, and I thought that maybe something had gotten infected. She kept getting worse, so yesterday I took her to a vet, bringing her records from Dover. Her vitals were normal, but they took blood work to be sure, and I mentally prepared myself for a trip to the doggie dentist to fix her mouth. She was down to 45 pounds.

I called this afternoon to get the results of the blood work. The numbers had changed dramatically from her last test in February. She is in renal failure. She also has too much phosphorus, which may be upsetting her stomach. This was not good news. It's not a stage for dialysis or anything that extreme, but they don't yet know what's causing it. So, I had to take a urine sample quickly to the vet and came home with special food to feed her six times a day and a host of medications to be coordinated in and around and before those six feedings.

So I've cancelled appointments for tomorrow, gave away the cabin for the weekend, and will probably not get to Concord this week, unless there is some dramatic change in the next couple of days.

And in all of it, I wonder about Mother. Does she know I haven't been there since a week ago Saturday? Does she remember that I WAS there a week ago Saturday and that we sat under the tall oaks and ate ice cream? Does she miss me? When we have both left this world behind and sit together eating ice cream on the other side, will any of it matter? Probably not. But I wish it were different anyway.