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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Friday, September 30, 2005

Around the table

I finally got back to The Birches. After two distressing dreams about Mother, I was pretty much desperate to get back there and see her. As the time and traffic worked out, I got there about 5:30, just as everyone was finishing supper. Mother was seated with Russell and Frances and a woman I didn't know...their usual table pulled out to accommodate four.

There were several new residents since the last time I saw everyone together and one notable exception. Eleanor was missing. Her room was across the hall and I went and looked at the name plate. A new name. I don't know if she moved to another floor or if she moved out or if she died. I'm sure the place is more peaceful without her there, but I found myself sad at her absence. It was obvious that her soul was in much anger hiding inside...and I wish her peace whether she be in this world or the next.

The mean table was also gone...the physical table as well as the two women who usually sat there. On a quick glance I didn't see them elsewhere, but I didn't go check their rooms. Dinner was basically over, so they might just have been finished.

Mother was finished, but didn't seem inclined to leave the table. I said hello to Russell and Frances and we chatted a bit about the stormy weather. Russell pointed to Mother. "She's been a good girl," he said. "Behaved herself all day." "She must be sick," I said, and we laughed.

It was important there, around the table. It was evening and everyone sat still at their tables...a few eating the last bites of cake, but most just sitting, keeping company. Not that many of them can be conversationalists or keep the usual kind of company, but there was a companionship that managed to grow around those tables despite the diseases of the mind that beset them all. The conversation was meaningless, and some were too deaf to hear it anyway. And yet there were bonds; and because there were bonds, they stayed with each other...prefering human company to the vast solitude of their rooms.

It's what the dinner table has always been about, I suppose. Even though it normally includes cogent conversation. Just being with others, knowing that you have a place at some table, somewhere...that you belong. How much more so here, when you have had to leave the table of family and loved ones. How important it is to have a place at the table. I could feel it in that room.

After a bit I got Mother's coat and we went out for a walk. I saw that her feet were swollen, especially one of them. David had mentioned that and was checking with the nurse about the cause. It was cool and we didn't stay out too long. She said her feet didn't hurt, but it seemed like walking around couldn't be great for them.

We went back to her room. I saw one of her little stuffed bears on the dresser. It had a lobster pin pinned onto the tip of its nose. I picked it up. "Why does your bear have a lobster on the end of its nose?" I asked. Mother laughed hysterically.

She sat down by Cody (the big stuffed dog) and picked up one of the Coventry High School yearbooks I had brought now almost a year ago. She went through the initial pages very slowly, trying to plan what those students should be doing. She used to be the Senior Class Advisor.

Eventually I had to go, we had a prayer, and I left. But I felt some measure of peace, knowing she had found her place at the table.