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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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Distance

Yes, I know it's been a long time. As I missed two book deadlines (the manuscript is finally done and submitted--thank you, God), and work was insanely busy, the stress of feeling I should be making the long trek north to see Mother combined with the work disasters looming should I take that time pretty much shut me down. Combine that with the memory that the last time I was there she slept through the entire visit, and I ended up deciding to get the work done at home.

Not that she has been absent from my mind. I posted earlier about my sadness that she couldn't understand what was happening on the political scene as Barack Obama gained his party's nomination. That was magnified a million fold on election day. When I went to vote that morning, I circled the bubble for Obama/Biden three times. One for me, one for my late father, and one for Mother. In the evening, I took their picture off the wall in my study and propped it up in front of the television so we could all watch the returns together. They would have been so happy and proud. Strange, I know, but these are strange times.

And then Sunday I went up for a visit to the Clough Center. I arranged to meet Rob there, and he called ahead to make sure they had her up. Now why didn't I think of that? Meeting Rob for visits is easier now that he lives only about half an hour from her new home, and his presence and conversation means that we stay longer than either of us might otherwise. Sunday we stayed about two hours.

She was having a pretty good day and was fairly alert. I asked her if she had heard that we elected a new president. She perked right up and said, "Yes." Since it was a Sunday, I also asked if they had church services there. Again she answered, "Yes." Actually, one was going on in the other room as we visited. Those were the only words she spoke during our time, but they were relevant to the conversation, which is notable. Maybe she just got lucky, but her expression seemed to indicate some clarity about the answer.

The whole time we were there, her jaw moved around like a restless school child. Parkinsons. A nurse came over to us and I asked about that, since David indicated that they had recently increased the dosage of her Parkinson's medications. The nurse was very attentive and made some notes in her file for the doctor to review. She also promised to help with a problem that has been going on for years--her glasses sliding down her nose. It seems like the solution to that should be simple, and I've been fussing about it since long before she left The Birches. But there they were again, never able to stay where they should for more than a minute--their trek down her nose accelerated by her ever-moving jaw.

As Rob and I got up to go, I leaned over and gave her a kiss, and in that moment I saw her there. In behind the eyes where the soul lives and occasionally gets the chance to peer out through the fog. It was a sad soul on Sunday that obviously didn't want us to go. But I had many hours to drive home. And a job that beckoned. It took most of that trip home to get over it.