Why is it that sometimes those closest to us can, without warning, become strangers in our midst? We’ve all experienced the division of families over senseless disagreements but the cruelest of all is when some debilitating disease takes over the very being of someone we love, a person who once loved us in return.
Mom left without saying good-bye, twice in my life; the first was in 2003, when Alzheimer’s finally took over its devastating control of her failing mind. The second was the day she died shortly after I left for work.
In some way, Alzheimer’s disease created a new stage for her, one where she could perform as if she had some starring role before adoring crowds who laughed at her every word and rose to give her applause at every opportunity, especially when she recited this “bar toast”/poem, over and over, to anyone who would listen:
I, for one, was not in her audience and was not amused. I was the “bitch”, the one who dressed, bathed and fed her along with giving her meds. My parent became my child, rebellious and ornery at every turn. You see, to her, I was her daughter no longer, just someone she resented, not that I could blame her; I resented her right back!
Ah, yes; the role of a caregiver can be quite unpleasant and when one is the only child giving that care, it is a combination of frustration, anger, and exhaustion. Did I mention sarcasm? Enter my husband who, to this very day maintains that my mother was putting on an act (as she often did pre-Alzheimer days) and that it was her normal way of escaping from things that made her uncomfortable. I always give him “the look”, whenever he attempts to again render his, unsolicited, opinion; men often tend to minimize things like this. Of course, I blend some of my sarcasm with one, or two, well-chosen words of profanity.
Why not? I’m good at it and it has helped me survive some terribly difficult situations but not without scars. We all have them, in one form or another; at least those of us who grew up having rough childhoods. How we step beyond the damage and proceed through our lives, striving to be better human beings is, in itself, a life-long battle but one worth the effort.
Thus, my decision to write a book, a small book of memoirs, to leave behind for my children and grandchildren and anyone else of interest. It has become a rush against time now that I live with the fear of someday losing my own memories as my Mom did. I’ve no visions of sitting on Oprah’s couch as she interviews me about my book or having it land on any Best Seller list of notable writings. I do have dreams of sitting on Robert Pattinson’s lap (I love that dream), or someday jamming on stage with Tom Petty.
All this brings me to a favorite line from Bridges of Madison County…”the old dreams were good; they didn’t all work out but it was better than having no dreams at all”.
At this delicate stage of my life, I can finally dream again; hoping for better days to come in the time I have left on this planet. I’m slowly approaching an unmentionable birthday (Please, don’t ask……Okay…65! Happy now?) and I stand determined to tie up all the loose ends of my life. Things like scrapbooks of my children’s school drawings, photographs that need to be put into memory boxes for my grandchildren and treasured Christmas items that each hold warm, cozy thoughts of holidays past; so many memories that need to be passed down before it’s too late.
And, of course, my book. The most important memory of all.