Aches and Pains
When I woke in the middle of the night with the old man’s curse of having to use the restroom, my right shoulder ached. I slept with it out from under the blankets. It was a deep down ache: an ache that filled the muscle to the bone. It wasn’t in the shoulder joint, but in the muscle itself.
It caused me to think of my mother, Sybil. Often she would sit with her upper arm and shoulder wrapped in a sweater, even when the weather was warm. She said, “It’s my bursitis.” I don’t think that she was ever diagnosed by a physician; it was a self diagnosed disease.
I know that the one malady that she actually developed was insidious, one that she didn’t recognize and one that we didn’t realize and understand until it was too late. We had small inklings of the disease Alzheimer’s was starting in her brain, but she put on such a good front that her doctor didn’t believe us.
She talked and seemed to make sense, but the memories of her past slowly trickled through her fingers and blew away. The present and the past met. She no longer understood what had happened and not what was happening. The world swirled around her and she was locked inside the prison that Alzheimer’s had forged for her.
At first she complained that she couldn’t read with her glasses, when in reality, she forgot how. She kept payroll for several companies, did taxes, was a treasurer for church, loving to work with numbers. She finally gave that up when each attempt became a struggle. That was heart wrenching to see. The recognition of family disappeared behind the veil of that disease. She couldn’t leave her house for more than an hour, without becoming distressed and restless.
Slowly she was lowered into that well of Alzheimer’s until nothing was recognizable. She threatened her husband and my dad with a meat fork. She didn’t want to keep herself clean, even with his help. He could no longer handle the person that she became. It was a difficult decision for him, but decided to place her in a nearby personal care facility.
Eventually it seemed as though Alzheimer’s turned out the light on all of her senses. She refused to eat. It may have been that the illness subdued the very desire to eat, took away the basest of human drives, that of needing food and drink. What a cruel taskmaster, Alzheimer’s.