Mom accused someone of taking her stamps. “Seven dollars’ worth of stamps,” she said. “I just bought them and now they’re stolen.” They were “found and returned,” she admitted later. Then Dad’s wooden stamp holder was supposedly taken until it reappeared in the back of her desk drawer. “They snuck it in here while I was out” was her warped explanation.
“They” were often different people—the cleaning ladies, someone with a key, and so on. “Anybody can get in here,” she hissed. The list of surely stolen items was endless: her black Rockports—which I found under the bed—a nail file (seriously! a nail file?) and more.
I envisioned the early stages of Mom’s dementia as a cunning, smoldering fire, its smoke whirling up and down, in and out, around and through her brain. Occasionally it would choke her orientation to time, sometimes cloud her vision or pretzel-twist her gray matter. It always lay in wait, concealed in the crevices of her short-term memory centers, fogging judgment, reasoning, and logic.
For a while, it would remain dormant, having already ravaged parts of her mind permanently until, like wildfires, something sparked it to flare up, engulfing and consuming its insatiable appetite for brain cells.
Mom would never get better. All I could do was be there for every step of her journey through hell and pray that was enough. She deserved better; everyone did. She deserved to go out with her boots on, not have her mind chipped and chiseled away piece by piece.
Eventually Mom had to be moved to a more secure assisted living setting. After a drama-filled, tumultuous year of adjustment, bizarre wanderings, deterioration, hospitalizations and, oh yes, occasional brilliant moments of lucidity in which she thanked me for all I had done for her, Mom passed away, July 8, 2011.
More than a year after her death, I can now feel her energizing spirit envelope me with positive memories and I grieve less for my loss.
I can hear Mom's kind voice once again, not the ranting of a possessed woman.
I can feel her strong arms hugging me, not her foot kicking me.
I can see her beautiful eyes and warm smile, not her strained face conveying unadulterated confusion.
Wonderful memories of her are emerging from behind the dark clouds of Alzheimer's, an insidious disease that robs us of our loved ones.
Original content the Alzheimer's Reading Room