Mom’s Love Escapes
My mom Sybil had Alzheimer’s disease. It was difficult to see the slow progression of the disease and to watch it imprison and consume this intelligent, active, loving person that she was. Most times it was a slow insidious encroachment and at other time, it would rapidly take away a part of her being.
As it captured more and more of her life, she forgot the storied that she once relished sharing with us. When we would tell a story she had told us, to confirm we had the facts correct, we would say, “Isn’t that right Mom?” she would answer, “If you say so.” as if it was the first time that she heard it.
Before the disease, she worked with my grandfather do income taxes for nearly forty years and was an accountant with my granddad. They “kept books and made checks” for two local multimillion dollar companies.
It seems odd that there were two (and I am sure that there are more) large companies in such a rural area, but these were lumber companies. They had lands, buildings, equipment, and on hand stocks of wood, their value increases dramatically. Her concentration waned and she had to quit that kind of work. She would have trouble balancing the figures and that would almost send her to tears.
She loved to read, but slowly when she found she was having difficulty reading, she blamed it on her glasses. After we recognized her condition, we decided that she had forgotten how to read.
Always neat and clean, her hair had to be just so. That changed and she would wear whatever she could find unless my dad put clothes out for her. Often she refused to bath or to even allow my dad to wash her.
She couldn’t stand to be away from home more than two hours without being restless and fussy about being where she was. She just knew that she wasn’t at home and that would agitate her to wander. Constantly she had to be watched so she would not stray.
We knew that she loved my dad, but the final straw came when she threatened to stab him with a fork. Dad wasn’t safe there with her alone and we placed her in a nursing home. Dad couldn’t handle it alone. We couldn’t be there because all of us kids were working with our families to support. We did relieve him so he could leave for a few hours.
Near the end of her life, she refused to eat. Once in awhile we could coax her into taking a bite of one of her favorite we would bring from home and talking was reduced to a jumble of sounds. Some words could be understood, but had no meaning. One day at the nursing home, she reached out and took my hand. She smiled the old smile that I remembered as my mom and said, “Where’s Carl? I love him so much.” It was plain and clear. It brought tears to my eyes as I thought her love for my dad had escaped Alzheimer’s prison bars. It had pushed through the cobwebs of her disease and flashed like a beacon burned brightly for that instant.