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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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Memorial Day

It's a day with "memory" built into the name, but I spent it at the place of forgetting. David, Laurie, and I gathered with Mother at The Birches for lunch. They are very good at recognizing holidays and occasions and many residents were gathered around the outdoor grills for the salads and burgers and hot dogs so common on the holiday.

David had reserved the private dining room for us, so we were away from the crowds. Mother has deteriorated quite a bit in her ability to move around. I think I already mentioned that she has gained a good bit of weight...probably at least in part because of her decreased ability to move. She doesn't seem able now to get out of a chair unassisted, so once she is seated, she stays put until someone gets her up. Perhaps we'll need to consider a wheelchair.

While I noted not too long ago that Mother was engaging more in "conversation," that was not the case on Monday. She spoke two words during the entire time. She did eat, but was unresponsive to questions.

A few days earlier I was writing a new-found cousin, who I had discovered in some of my geneological pursuits. As we were exchanging information, I caught myself writing about Mother in the past tense. That's really what a visit with someone with Alzheimer's is like. You visit a memory of the past. Others went to cemeteries on Memorial Day and reached back for memories of loved ones while looking at a granite stone. We went to a sort of living tomb...lovely, kind, bedecked with flowers, but still we were looking at one thing and trying to remember something different...something alive...memories of what once was and now fades into history.

Several of you readers have written to me and told me stories of your mothers...the amazing accomplishments and vibrancy of lives that have been stolen by the disease. I think it's important to keep telling those keep remembering that what we see when we visit a loved one with Alzheimer's is the tomb of memory. The tomb is real, but so is the memory. We gather there and remember that they are not the granite slab, they are not the body shell, they are in spirit still what they have always been. That reality is simply fading from our trying to hang onto a cell phone signal while entering a remote wilderness.

The person who is my mother exists still, but in a different dimension or form. More and more I can only reach out and touch the stone.