Updated: Oct 23, 2021
There is no reason to be sad today: I got into work without a hitch after my doctor’s appointment this a.m. In honor of the beautiful weather, we decided to have a cookout at work. My co-worker and I were successful in our search for Shiner Bock so I could introduce my coworkers to my beloved Texas beer. There have been plenty of laughs during today. It’s been a good day.
But that is always when it seems to hit–when I least expect it. I got listening to some music and there was an Elvis cover, and it made me want to listen to “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” the song my mother used to sing to me when I was a baby.
The past few months have been hard. My mom’s decline has been more noticeable. Going out requires a constant watchful eye, and generally one of us has to walk with her/guide her along. Bathroom breaks need to be assisted. Changing clothes is a 2-person job. With every day that passes, another piece of my mother slips away.
I have done my best to make peace with this situation, with this disease. There’s really nothing else that can be done: there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, and at this point, even if there was, the disease progressed considerably in my mother. I have to realize that saying “it is too late,” is being realistic, not hopeless. And I have to remind myself I don’t need to be hopeless to be realistic.
There are still good moments–my mother is still often in good spirits. She still can crack jokes, still manages to find her comedic timing. But while sometimes those glimmers of normalcy bring happiness and hope that we might have more time than we think, it often makes me realize how much of her we have lost in the last 6 years.
We’re currently staying at my parents’ house after apartment plans fell through rather unexpectedly and abruptly, and for the most part, this arrangement works out well: We’re able to live rent-free temporarily and pay down some debts/figure out our “what’s next” without having the issue of being locked down in a lease. My dad has been a very gracious host to us and being more than understanding about our situation. This also allows us more time to spend with Nay Nay, and an opportunity to help out my dad now that the season is picking up again on the farm.
The experience of living back in the home I grew up in again is odd at times. Sure, I’ve been visiting there consistently since I first moved to college at 18 and then officially moved on my own after I graduated at age 21, but now I’m actually there. All the time. I find myself retracing my old steps, re-remembering the way I used to move through that house when I considered it my own, noting the things that are the same, the things that have changed as I have.
I keep finding myself saving, “If only my mom could see this…” or, “Oh man… what would my mom say about X?” What would she say about her violets? She always managed to keep them in bloom.
If only my mom could see how much expired stuff was in the fridge! She would have lost it…
I find myself making the same evaluations when I look at my mom– her once perfectly manicured nails (hours of my childhood spent tortured, waiting for her fill to be done at Nails by Diane), now uneven, barely ever painted. Her roots, always colored before her secret could show, now revealing their true colors (or lack thereof). Her beloved coach purses filled with strange collections of napkins, yarn, assorted fruit, and any other odds and ends she might have picked up and stashed along the way. I find myself wondering, why would she say if she knew? If she could see this other person?
It’s hard to explain this idea of viewing my mom as 2 different people: my mom and Nay Nay. I love them both unconditionally, but they are different people to me. I live between two worlds, two mothers–the one I have now and the one I had, the one whose memories linger in the rooms of my childhood home, in the smell of her perfume, in between the pages of old photo albums, her handwritten notes and lists, yellowing, aging, begging, “Remember me.”