“I just know that he is going to tell me that I can’t drive anymore!”  I remember my mother’s words as though they had just been spoken yesterday.  We were on our way to her doctor appointment.  It wasn’t just a routine physical.  It was to be the beginning of many tests that would check for memory loss with my mom.  Those closest to Mom were definitely noticing things, the repeat of things that she said in everyday conversations with her and her forgetting appointments that she was making.  Nothing major, but yet, things that just seemed too subtle to ignore. 

“Mom, we will cross the bridge if and when he says that.  I feel that he is going to work with you.  You have been seeing this doctor for years.  He knows you well.  And we kids are here for you.”  I soothed.  I could not admit that I was so scared.  Scared to hear what he was going to say.

After a few weeks and many tests to be sure, I was with my mother when the doctor told her that her memory was just not where they thought it should be.  All the tests were conclusive and showed that she was suffering from mild cognitive memory failure.  I knew that it wasn’t going to get any better either but I was going to be a beacon of hope because that was who I needed to be for my mother who always had done that for me my entire life before this. 

The first question she presented to the doctor after absorbing the shock of her diagnosis was “does this mean I can’t drive anymore?”  She didn’t immediately lose her driving privileges.  We worked it out with her and she eventually gave it up herself.  The rest did not go so easily.  My mother who was a fiercely independent soul did not go quietly into the night and for this I will be eternally grateful {even though at the time I could sometimes get impatient}.   My mom had always suffered in silence; she was in abusive relationships in her life, but she was as beautiful on the inside as the outside. However, she did not bring that bitterness into her dealings with others.  She always tried to teach my siblings and me that there is no such word as the word can’t.  She always wanted us to persevere and to keep trying.  I believe that when she was diagnosed with the memory loss she was determined to keep fighting for as long as she could.

She continued to live in her apartment in Cumberland where the other folks living there looked in on her but when she got lost in the building on her way back from the laundry room, I knew it was time so I moved her up to Spooner.  As a matter of fact, I called her and told her that Larry and I would be down that coming weekend to help her pack and that I had given notice at her building.  When Larry and I got down to her she had literally packed everything!  Including her medication!! So then it was up to Spooner we went where Mom lived in an apartment by where I was working.  She attending the Happy Days Club 2 days a week and loved that.  This worked for about 6 months until Mom started wandering around and then we knew that we had to take further measures for Mom’s care.  I would have loved to take care of Mom if I wouldn’t have had to work.  So in March of 2010 she entered in Spooner Nursing Home.  She received great care there and the Activity Department helped keep her mind as sharp as possible plus provided her with purpose.  I still think that those were some of Mom’s happiest times when she first came into the Nursing Home because she knew how much she was loved from the attention she received.  I tried hard to cling to this as her disease progressed and we had to say goodbye to yet another ability that Mom was losing.  I felt like I was grieving as Mom’s personality changed due to the dementia.  I felt helpless as she was so confused, sad, and forgetful.  It literally brought me to my knees when she no longer knew me.  After that when she knew me for seconds at a time, I called them the “Jesus moments.”  I was so grateful and moved by those times.  I was thrilled that I was in the situation to be able to experience them.  I am also grateful to the Alzheimer’s support group who really understood a lot of what I was going through as well.  They really helped me separate the person from the disease.  I also learned that once you separate the two, there are moments of laughter and that you don’t have to feel guilty when something is funny.  You are not laughing at your loved one but, rather, at what is happening in the moment.  Alzheimers really becomes about living in the moment and cherishing all those moments that you can.

In closing, I learned so much from my mother, my best friend, throughout my life, but even though I know that she suffered from this wretched disease, I know that I learned even more from her after she was diagnosed.  She fought it just like she fought everything with a quiet dignity and with a spirit born of strength and sheer determination. On some level I like to believe that perhaps she was still fighting at the end.  Jesus took her home on March 5th of this year and she remains next to Jesus, the biggest hero in my life.

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