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

Friday, December 01, 2006

Noel Part II

Thanksgiving is really the kick-off to the Christmas Season these days, and so it is that a week and a day after celebrating Thanksgiving at the Birches, we were back for their Christmas party.

Thanksgiving first--with some pictures. I'm struck by Mother's more and more it is becoming the room of a little child. Here is her bed.
Mother's bed at The Birches

We had to get an extra piece of furniture to accommodate her roommates:
Mother's stuffed animals Of course that may or may not be what she would have done with her room, but people bring her stuffed animals...ever larger ones...and so they need a home. She seems to enjoy them, and they enjoy her back.

But on to Thanksgiving. Actually, there's not much to report. Sadly, this year we were separated from the rest of the residents and were down in the private dining room. It's very nice, but I miss being with the other residents and their families. Rob was missing, as he was enjoying Thanksgiving on an airplane to Missouri for work. Stephanie came, as did Marie and the boys, David, Laurie, and me. We came, we ate, we went home. (If I were a bit more ambitious, I'd put that in Latin, but it's getting late.) Here's a picture of me with Mother at dinner.
Mother and I at Thanksgiving dinner I believe that's Laurie's finger down in the corner!

But the true miracle was, as churches have always said, at Christmas. Or at least at the Christmas party, which was this evening. Upstairs in the great room, we all gathered, having come through driving rain to celebrate. Rob and I came together and were about half an hour late due to the terrible weather and traffic. But we arrived just as the food was being put out, which was good. When we came in, Mother didn't seem as responsive as she has been on recent visits. I was glad no one asked her to identify her family members. I'm not sure what she would have said this time.

A lavish spread of hot and cold items were there, which was good since I had not had lunch or supper. While the cooking crew was a bit off their game for Thanksgiving, they were in true form for tonight with not only the requisite cheese, crackers, and veggie trays, but meats and hot dishes, wine and egg nog, and some downright incredible peanut butter fudge.

A talented young woman played the piano and, after we had all stuffed ourselves, we paid a bit more attention to the music. Christmas carols, of course. Our family (Rob and I, Mother, David, Marie, and Laurie) were pretty close to the piano with Rob and I on either side of Mother. After the music had gone on a bit, some folks began to sing along. I began to sing, too. Not long after, I saw Mother's lips begin to move.

I was on it in a second. Looking directly at her to encourage her, I began to sing louder. Rob caught on and chimed in also with his lovely bass voice. Mother's voice grew stronger. And she began to sing the carols...with the words...and we looked at and sang to each other. Darned if she didn't know every single word of all three verses to Away in a Manger. Didn't miss a one.

And then it happened. The First Noel. As the piano played and we sang, it brought me back to that first Christmas season two years ago when all the residents at dinner had stopped and joined in the taped song playing in the kitchen. Thanks to WGBH Morning Stories who let me tell that story on the air, I was remembering it all as we sang it again at the party. We came to the chorus...Noel, Noel...Rob and I both noticed it at the same moment and looked at each other in amazement. Not only was Mother singing all the words perfectly, she was singing the alto line! It was on pitch and correct...I've sung the alto part enough to know it as she does. It was all I could do to finish the song.

But we did finish and we went on singing, until David indicated he needed to leave and we had to go downstairs to have a family picture taken. As we helped Mother stand up to go downstairs, our noses told us that her dinner had finished its course through her digestive tract, so after the picture it was back to her room to get cleaned up and then we headed back out into the storm.

She sang the alto line. A small thing, I guess...but those are the things that count these days. Like the flashes of lightning outside, there was a flash of grace within, and the first noel that the angels sang still can be heard, even through the fog of Alzheimer's. Born is the king of a child in a an old woman in a dementia unit. Noel!