Friday, January 28, 2011

Mom is Resilient

Mom’s birthday was last week so my sister and I took her out for lunch. There’s strength in numbers. I told my sister recently that I wish I was as patient as she is with Mom. Sis takes it all in stride and smiles and soothes and makes Mom feel comfortable. I cringe and avoid eye contact and bite my tongue to keep from crying.

Mom needs help getting in and out of the car. She has a hard time with steps and moves slower than she ever has. She fumbles and can barely feed herself. Her speech is broken and often trails off into nonsense as she loses track of what she was saying. She’s easily distracted and comments on odd things.

The amount of patience it requires to spend time with her is excruciating to me. It’s hard to distinguish the pain of seeing her struggle with the frustration of having to help. Bottom line is that I’m angry. Being around her churns up all my anger over the unfairness of her disease. I try to make Mom laugh and stay light hearted but often it’s a false happiness I model. She can no longer tell that I’m faking it.

My sister told me that her patience took practice.

So I cut myself some slack on our outing and allowed myself to be out of practice. We had fun! Mom is still in such good spirits. She LOVED seeing us and said repeatedly, "My girls! I miss you!" We fussed over her and helped her change into a fleece jacket. She put on her new slip-on shoes with gel soles which she loves. My sister fixed her hair. Mom told us that Dad said to let us help her style it after he blow-dried her hair that morning. It still looked like she'd slept on it.

We said goodbye to Dad around 2:30pm and I said, "don't wait up!" Mom was all smiles.

Mom got into the car without any help, probably because she was excited and didn't over-think the mechanics of maneuvering into the seat. We buckled her seat belt and pulled out of the driveway, commenting on the new neighbor's changes to the property next door. There were backhoes and trucks in their driveway. The lilac bushes I loved as a kid were all gone. Mom said, "I worry about Zelda [the cat] getting out. They have lots of dogs."

We had a late lunch in one of our favorite restaurants. We took a bunch of pictures of each other at the table while we waited for our food. We joked and told Mom stories. She loved listening, like any mother would. Her sense of humor isn't gone and she laughed over our exaggerations, miscommunication with our husbands, cooking foibles, and adventures at work. And when we repeated stories, she enjoyed them just as much the second time around.

We were talking about headaches and I told my sister, "Maybe sneezing really hard would help; you could just shoot it right out your nose."

Mom frowned and said, "Oh, goodness" with the exact same inflection I'm used to. That's always been her indirect way of saying, "Ick! Stop it!" It was nice to hear that familiar phrase, as if she was good-naturedly scolding me like she did when I was a kid.

After eating, we did some antique shopping. I was worried Mom might break something, but she followed us around the store without help and gently touched the things that caught her eye. I felt like a parent as I supervised her. We laughed over the weird things we saw and pointed out the dishes and fabric that reminded us of family friends or grandparents.

I caught Mom looking at me a few times and when we made eye contact, she smiled really big. It was obvious she missed us and was happy to be with her daughters for the afternoon. It was really healing for me, too: relieved the guilt I was feeling about avoiding discomfort. I genuinely enjoyed myself.

It was a really nice time. I love and admire you, Mom.


  1. I admire YOU. It takes all my patience to work with Alzheimer patients at work. I can't imagine how much more difficult it would be with a family member.
    Your mom is amazing.

  2. These pictures are just great Emily. I'm glad you were able to enjoy your day and reflect on it so deeply. You guys are an amazing family!

  3. Thank you for sharing Emily! I'm glad you were able to enjoy yourself and I appreciate you honesty! I have less patience than I did last year and I could relate to you! Love you!