When They Forget Who You Are is about that dreaded moment. By now, mother’s Alzheimer’s had progressed to the point where we had moved her. She was now living very near my brother and sister in law, with in-home caregiving support. This chapter is about taking mother to Athens for her sister’s funeral, handling her bad days and facing the dreaded moments – – when she began to forget she had children.
Mother’s much loved sister and my aunt Tula died in the late 1990s. The family was planning her Memorial Service for a month or two after her death. My two brothers and I agreed that we should wait to tell mother in person, when one of us could be with her. I was planning to visit a few weeks later, so the task was delegated to me.
When I thought it was a good time to talk, I told mama about Tula’s illness and death. She took it hard, but stoically, as I thought she might. Although she didn’t dwell on her death, she did remember later on that Tula had passed away. Since she had lost a lot of her short term memory by then, it was a tribute to her relationship with her older much loved sister that she remembered it at all. My brothers and I discussed the Memorial Service with our cousins. Since Tula had been a violinist and music teacher, the family planned a lot of music for the service, including a string quartet. We thought that having music would be an appropriate tribute to Tula. It would make the service easier and more meaningful for the family, and would certainly be something mother could appreciate.
My brother, Tom, started talking with mother about the service, asking her if she wanted to go. In her more lucid moments, she was quite clear about wanting to go with Tom and my sister-in-law to the service. My brother, John and I each flew into Atlanta and drove over to Athens. Tom and his wife, Ann, drove down from Louisville with mother. We all met at our cousin Jenny’s house outside of Atlanta. She had prepared a wonderful spread of cold cuts and salads for us.
I could tell that mother was exhausted, but my brother and sister-in-law were absolutely wiped out. They explained that the ride down had been quite difficult. They were never sure if mother was going to suddenly open a car door while the car was going 75 miles an hour. Mama had been agitated and fretful, and she fussed throughout the drive down from Louisville. She was not having a good day, which meant that nobody else was having a good day either.
Once at Jenny’s house, though, mama perked up. She always had the ability to “put on her best face,” to be charming. Even with her Alzheimer’s, she could still socialize and fall back upon manners and social skills she had honed for decades. It really was fascinating to watch.
After eating, I got up to check on something in the next room. As I came back into the dining room, I saw mother standing quite still and watching me with her head tilted and a quizzical expression on her face. When she saw me return, she began to walk toward me looking confused. Then she said, “You look so familiar.” All conversation ceased, time stopped, and the room was totally silent. For our family, that was highly unusual.
Even though we had talked about the fact that mother would forget who we were, and thought we were prepared, we weren’t. At least, we weren’t emotionally prepared. I don’t know where my answer came from, it just came. “That’s because you’ve known me all my life,” I said and gave her a hug.
She hugged me back and gave me a big smile, confusion momentarily relieved. I felt like throwing up.
Anne Hays Egan, New Ventures Consulting
Ezine Articles Expert Author
When They Forget Who You Are
Copyright, New Ventures Consulting, 2013. All rights reserved.
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