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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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Mother's Day

May 11 was Mother's Day this year. May 11 is also my birthday. On Mother's Day in 1959 my father took a picture of my mother sitting on the stone wall in front of our Rhode Island home. She was perched as gracefully as someone about to give birth could be, with a lovely backdrop of yellow forsythia. Later that day the labor pains began and she went to Kent County Memorial Hospital for the birth of her first child. At 2 am on Monday morning, her labored breathing gave way to my first breath.

Even though it was technically the day after Mother's Day, we have always connected my birthday to Mother's Day. And every so often she and I would go out to the stone wall when the forsythia was in bloom to take a picture of the two of us in that spot. I need to find one of those pictures and scan it so I can post it here. Climate change has meant that these days the forsythia is long past in New England by the time May 11 rolls around, but I still think of her when I see the bright yellow flowering and feel comforted when I have some in my yard.

This past Mother's Day, however, Mother's Day was my birthday and I traveled up to Concord with several agendas. Of course I went to be with Mother--to bring a card, and to be with her on Mother's Day at least for a little bit. Rob and Stephanie and Marie all met me at The Birches about 11 am. Rob and Stephanie beat me there and were sitting with Mother at one of the dining room tables. I gave Mother a kiss and wished her a Happy Mother's Day.

While she was in a pleasant mood, there was no real response. I gave her my card. Normally I would read a card aloud to her, since I'm unsure what she can make out of the written word these days. But I couldn't read the sentiment on the card without bursting into tears, so I just let it be as she looked it over carefully. Much of her life as a teacher revolved around paperwork and she is always very careful with papers. She "organizes" them and works to make sure they are in their proper place--which of course usually has little to do with their actual proper place, but she is diligent and focused when she has a piece of paper in her hands. When we celebrate other occasions with her, you have to be careful. If someone gives you a card for some occasion and you let Mother see it, you may never get it back. Or she may decide that organizing it means tearing off one part to put in a special place.

Before I arrived Rob had been prepping Mother and after the Mother's Day cards had been properly organized, Rob tried prompting her. "Do you remember who has a birthday on Mother's Day?" "Who right here has a birthday today?" No response. "Today is Anne's birthday" he said. Nothing. Of course who knows what happens inside the mind. Maybe she knew at some level. Maybe not. I doubt that she knew it was Mother's Day either, despite the words and the cards. But she seemed contented, which is about the only gift left to give.

As the time came for lunch, Rob, Stephanie, Marie, and I went to the next item on our agenda: Checking out another facility where it might be possible for Mother to move. It's about half an hour further north in Warner, NH. Pine Rock Manor. We had a deposit check to hold a bed for her if we liked it. Like the Birches, Pine Rock is an assisted living facility. It is not solely for the memory impaired, as The Birches is, but it is their stated specialty. And they accept Medicaid.

We saw rooms...both single and shared...and they were lovely and peaceful. She could bring her own furnishings and decor, as she could at The Birches, and the staff were pleasant, down-to-earth, informative and kind. We left the deposit.

Then we moved on to a little mom and pop place in Warner for a birthday lunch. The sign on the door indicated that with the state of the economy they could no longer be open for supper. Fitting since the economy was also on my mind as I contemplated an extra hour of driving time for every visit. I would be able to get to Warner even less frequently. But Rob would be closer, and I would sleep better at night knowing that she was in the atmosphere at Pine Rock than I would have if she were in the first prison cell that we saw.

There may even be forsythia on the grounds.


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