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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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Good Day

I have actually visited twice since my last post...not enough, but there you go. This was a picture I took with my phone on the first of those visits.

This was a re-adjustment of her position. When I first came in to the room she was slumped over the chair to her right with her hands both down on the floor under the window and her head not far from the same. I thought she had passed out or was dead or something.

As it turned out, she was fine. And she wasn't down there by accident. Her yearbooks (she taught at Coventry High School in Coventry, RI for almost 40 years) were for some strange reason stacked down there...behind the shelves on the floor under the window. They were very neatly placed and she was leaning over there looking at them.

I suggested that maybe looking at them on her lap would be a bit more comfortable but she didn't seem inclined to budge. Convinced that if she stayed that way much longer they could display her in a circus, I pulled her up and got her to the position you see above. For the rest of the day she listed right.

Other than that, the visit was uneventful. I gave her the news--told her I'd signed a contract for my third book. She fiddled with the yearbook pages. I prayed with her before leaving, but she showed no sign of recognizing the act.

Here's another picture of Mother...this one from long ago.

Mother has always loved animals--she gave that to me--and I'm guessing that, for her, this day somewhere in the late 1930's was a good day. When I arrived for my second visit, one of the aides greeted me, as she was just getting Mother up from the lunch table. "She's having a good day," the aide said, "she fed herself." I swallowed hard.

Probably some day back in her childhood...well before the pony picture...someone rejoiced in the day little Joan could feed herself. She had a good day and was making progress. As she grew, the definition of "good day" grew as well. There were fun days when a poor girl raised by her great-grandmother could get to ride a pony. There was the day she was named Valedictorian of her high school class and the day she learned she was accepted to Pembroke (the women's arm of Brown University). There was her 1954 wedding to my father, and I hope that on the Mother's Day when she entered the hospital to give birth to yours truly she considered that a good day as well. Although probably the birth of my brother was better, since her labor then lasted only two hours!

As she went through a lifetime of personal and professional joys and accomplishments, who knew that on a warm October day in her 75th year someone would feel compelled to highlight a day she could feed herself? It's jarring.

Of course, like most things with this disease, it's jarring because it gives voice to my own demons. What are the "good days" of my future? Will someone one day praise my ability to stand upright or blink my eyes or have food run successfully through the digestive process? It gives me pause.

The irony and sole comfort is that however diminished the notion of a "good day" becomes, we all do have one last hurrah...the goodest of all good days that no indignity of age, accident or disease can steal away. There will come a day when God will, as the old hymn says, "lead us from night to never-ending day." Or at least I think so. And if I'm wrong, I won't know the difference.

But I do believe that the end of suffering is a good day and that sometimes the Grim Reaper appears more like a jovial stable master with a pony, inviting us to climb on and trot away to new adventures. Whether that good day comes soon or late, Mother and I will both climb into that saddle with joy.


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