A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Alzheimer's vs Mama

We buried our mom today. Her long battle with Alzheimer's ended a few days ago and she has found the peace in death that she could not find in life. 

(Photo - Mama and Rex)

A friend of mine told me long ago at the beginning of this ride with Mama that when you are given the experience of taking care of an aging parent, that it is not only the parent who is enriched by this, it is the caregiver. Her parent did not have Alzheimer's and was able to stay at home with her without outside help; he passed away from a heart attack. So her experience was not exactly the same as ours and at the time I didn't quite understand what she was saying. But I believe we were all enriched by taking care of the person who took care of us. We paid a very high price for this and Mama did too. But we are different people for having done it, and I think better people.

Shortly before Daddy died he told me that he was not worried about Mama after he was gone. He knew that I would take care of things and not let anyone take advantage of her. He said to me that I would straighten everything out and "kick ass" if it was needed. I am sure he told this same thing to each of us if he had the opportunity. 

I don't think we always did what he maybe would have wanted, but we tried our best. We walked these last miles with Mama and tried to understand what she was thinking and what she wanted us to do. We cried with her and I think we can all say we never lost our temper with her, even when she was in the angry stage that characterizes part of Alzheimer's. We took the emotional punches she gave us and stood our ground. She could not run us off. 

We found our strength in each other. When one was down, another stepped in and took over. Our hearts broke together and in that shared sadness we stumbled on. We learned as we went and we adjusted constantly to her ever-changing behavior. We became her advocate when we felt she was neglected. We tried to "kick ass" when she was not able to do it herself. We called, we appeared, we walked the halls searching for answers, we did our homework. Always in our minds was what would she do for us and what would Daddy want us to do for her. 

We stayed with her day and night at the beginning while she screamed at us and blamed us and pleaded with us. We stood in tears and explained to her that she could not go home again. When we took her to the nursing home from hospital visits we drove around town so she could get her bearings and took her in side doors so she would not be scared of the place she was living in. We cooked the things she used to like to eat and took them to her. While she was able we took her for ice cream and to family meals. We brought her the candy she loved best, Baby Ruths and Millionaires. We decorated her room each holiday. We posted pictures on her walls so she would remember us. 

(Photo - me and Mama)

We washed her clothes and helped her shower. We brushed her hair and cut her nails and polished her toenails. We brought her grandkids to see her. We ate lunch with her and went to Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas parties with her. We brought her stuffed animals that comforted her. We played the guitar for her in her hospital room. We made sure she was not forgotten. 

And when it was time we let her go. I am not sure if Alzheimer's kicked our ass or if we kicked it but we fought for her as Daddy would have wanted and she was finally released from this disease that imprisoned her the last years of her life. At last she went gently into that good night......