My mother has Alzheimer's. I documented some of our trials in a blog called Lovin' La Mama Loca, a few years ago, but as her condition worsened, I've had a more difficult time writing about it.
I've bristled, over the years, at those that have lamented "it's as if you've already lost her." I hung on to what we had, and tried to embrace every minute of cognition that was left. There was plenty of her left even after she needed help with her checkbook. Even when she couldn't differentiate 1 p.m. from 1 a.m. and called in the wee hours of the morning to ask me where she left her glasses, she was lovely.
When you ask me how she is doing these days, I don't often know what to say. I usually blather something like, "She is physically fit. She is so sweet. She is still smiley. She is lovely."
That said, my sweet Mama does not know my name, anymore; I can't even remember the last time she addressed me by "Lori," and the word doesn't spark any recognition in her. Nor does "Lee" or "Teri," (my father, and her husband of 40 years, and my sister, who passed away 4 years ago).
Some days I visit her, and she looks right through me. It depends on her schedule. If I catch her napping, she's more disoriented, and will barely speak. She says little else, but "I love you," and "You are beautiful." Those are her catch phrases to everyone—the staff loves her. I can prompt a giggle by calling her Mickey Mouse, or saying "'tickle tickle tickle," but rarely does she say more.
I took a few videos of her today, with the intention of writing this blog. She was amazingly talkative and almost bowled me over with her statements "I think so," and "it's good." That is a lot of yakking for her, these days.
I have to admit that there are days when I visit her that I feel completely alone. Her affairs are mine alone to deal with—I'd rather be sharing this sorrow with my sister, you know? Most people "don't want to remember her this way." I understand this, and I know that if she did have visitors, she'd have no memory of them when they left her sight.
It it a lot, to miss her so much and yet, to feel so lonely in her presence. Yes, I've reached the point now where it does feel as if I have lost her.
But I still take some comfort, for her: If my mother would have known ahead of time that she were to lose her words, and if she could have had a choice of the two things she would say, over and over, to everyone she met, they would have been:
I love you, and You are beautiful.
I'm so glad she can still tell you that.
It's all she would have wanted to say.