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This may sound terrible...but if I'm going to be really honest with you...I can't remember when my mother died. I really can't.  It's not because she died when I was really young.  She died I think in the spring, maybe 3 or 4 years ago, maybe 5 or 6.

This may sound terrible...but I don't remember because she suffered from Alzheimer's for so many years.  I lost my mother more than a decade before she died.

My mother was young, 59, when she started forgetting things...things we ignored because who would ever have thought of something like Alzheimer’s for one so young.

When my mother was 60, my father, her partner and best friend, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.  He was the person her life centered around.  He adored her and spoiled her and filled her life with many good things in gratitude for her years of loving him.

My parents had a very traditional marriage.  When my mother lost my father, she lost her anchor, her rudder, her compass.

This may sound terrible...and as much as we all grieved the loss of our father, we were hoping our mother would eventually move on to find a new life without him.  She was still young and had the charm of an imp and the beauty of a fairy child.

This may sound terrible...but I always thought that my mother getting Alzheimer's was the perfect disease for her.   My siblings and I took my father's place shortly after he died.  This happened when one of my brothers went to see her after my father's death and found her refrigerator devoid of food, and her, unshowered and confused, pacing the house, whispering who knows what to keep herself company in those lonely terrible days.

This may sound terrible...but having Alzheimer's is like being an enlightened Buddhist.  My mother only had the now.  Only had the present.  Only had this moment.

Once, when my mother was staying with me, I took her to see Jerry Seinfeld.  She and I laughed and howled the entire show.  I was so happy to look over at her and see how much she was enjoying herself and I was looking forward to the car ride home, for more giggles and reminiscing.  

She didn't remember a thing.  Not a trace of it...nothing, nahda, zilch.  That was one sobering drive as I ached for my mother and not the stranger without a memory who was sitting next to me.

This may sound terrible...but my mother with Alzheimer's could be absolutely hysterical.  Like the time we were flying on a 747 from North Carolina back to my home.  In mid-flight, she turned to me with a big smile and said, "This is the most realistic flight simulator!"

Or the time we were driving around Boulder with the beautiful Flatirons in the background and she exclaimed, "That is the most wonderful backdrop!"  She thought we were on a movie set.

Years and years went on.  We could no longer take care of her in our homes so she went to assisted living.  After awhile, she went on to a nursing home.  This went on for years and years.

This may sound terrible...but I was relieved when she died.  She hadn't known who any of us were for years...she didn't even know she was a person.  

This may sound terrible...but at her memorial I felt numb.  I felt disconnected.  In that quiet church, the people remembering her and giving us their condolences, I was struggling with the finality.  What finality?  I had lost her years before.

This won't sound terrible...I hate this disease.  I hate how it robs wonderful passionate intelligent people of themselves, their thoughts, their memories, their connections.  I hate what it does to families, year after year after year.

And it just seems to me that there has to be a better way to deal with this insipid disease.  A more humane way, a more honorable way, a more dignified way as opposed to the years and years of nothingness my mother spent being spoon fed and unaware.  

Mary



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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Feathermaye wrote Nov 2, 2008
    • Alzheimer’s has been on my mind a lot lately, as my parents begin to reach advanced ages and even my husband turns 50 in just a couple of weeks.

      I know so little about the disease, other than it scares the hell out of me. Is there a family history of Alzheimer’s for you and your mom?

      I’m sorry you had to lose her twice, and suffer such an extended period of time between the two events.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Yana Berlin wrote Nov 2, 2008
    • Mary,

      That’s so sad...my grandma’s sister has Alzheimer, she was just tested and has a brain of a one year old. She plays with dolls and doesn’t recognize anyone, every time I see her my heart breaks.  

      I know what you mean....this sounds terrible....but this is no way to live...

      I’m sorry for your loss, even so many years later, I can still feel your pain.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Inakika wrote Nov 3, 2008
    • This is so beautifully written. I can identify with your story, my grandmother has Dementia. It has been a struggle to see her slowly turn in to someone else.
      My grandmother was a Reading Specialist and she lives in that time now. She awakens in the morning thinking she is late for class, looking around the house for missing papers she was grading last night.
      There is a saying “Once an adult, twice a child“, and that is so true.
      I miss my grandmother, but I feel grateful to still have her......



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mztracy wrote Nov 4, 2008
    • Not terrible!! I watched my nana go through it. And now, someone very close to us is suffering with this.
      Sending cyber-hugs to you



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mztracy wrote Nov 4, 2008
    • I get scared about this. My mom (80)and dad(79), have relatives that this happened to. As I said, my nana, mom’s side. Two of my aunts. Very scary indeed



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Kelly-Williams, M.A. wrote Nov 5, 2008
    • Thank you for sharing your stories of grief.  There’s not much more to say about this devastating disease is there.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Michelle Rowe wrote Nov 5, 2008
    • I have not personally known anyone with Alzheimer’s so I cannot relate. It sounds horrible and I’m so sorry for what you went through. I have also lost both of my parents so I know what it’s like to navigate through life without them. They both died young (mom-58, dad-67).



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Kelly-Williams, M.A. wrote Nov 5, 2008
    • Vigirl,

      Way to young to lose your parents.  I miss them often as I’m sure you do.  Thank you so much for commenting.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Sylvprz wrote Nov 13, 2008
    • I know exactly how you feel since I’ve just lost my grandfather two months ago. In his case, this brain shut down when my eldest aunt, who was 69 at that time and was his caregiver, died unexpectedly a year ago. He was a very active independent and healthy man despite being 95. After my aunt’s death, he sank down into an abyss not to return back to us. We’ve lost our grandmother 6 years ago and he was a able to bear the pain becuase he had his daughters and grandaughters. However, he couldn’t overcome the loss of our beloved aunt. We think that he didn’t die earlier becuase he didn’t “want” to inflict upon us so much pain again in such a short time. At the end, we were relief after seen him becoming bedridden, totally dependent, developing ulcers and just shutting down.
      This event also made me think of a future that we might encounter. It also makes me scare since I’m single and I would not like to become a burden to my daughters when I reach that age. I know I shouldn’t be thinking this, but I cannot help it. It scares me.
      So I try to live my life to the max. so if in the future I don’t have memories of my present, at least I’ll have many memories of my past, which will make me smile.



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