When I’m 84

A time for every season

Tomorrow is my mother’s 84th birthday. And we’ll celebrate it over and over again because she won’t remember. I sent her flowers. Every time she sees them she will experience them again for the first time. She’ll receive phone calls from her two grandchildren and will be thrilled. She may remember their names. She’ll forget they called the minute she hangs up.

My mom is perfectly healthy. She even gained 5 pounds according to her last doctor’s visit. Which is good – that’s about 6% of her body weight. She eats well. She loves to jitterbug whenever she hears music – and even when she doesn’t. She wants to dance at my daughter’s wedding (every time we tell her there will be one next year). She sings my dad a lull-a-bye before they go to bed. Every now and then she speaks German, French or Italian. (My grandfather was German, she took French in high school and lived as a child in an Italian neighborhood). And she sometimes swears.

I’m not sure what she does all day when I’m not around. She doesn’t read or watch TV. She likes to look out the window of her condo at the birds and pond. She rearranges her drawers and discovers old jewelry that I thought we had given away. She stares and catnaps.

My mom has Alzheimer’s disease. It has progressed slowly, but everyday is the same. Or a little bit worse. She still knows me, but doesn’t remember my name. She doesn’t remember ever driving, having children, or where she used to work or go to school. Don’t ask her where she lives, what day or year it is, her phone number or what she had for breakfast.

She does remember her name, Trinette. And that she loves to sew, knit, and draw. (But don’t try to trim her fingernails – she still needs them for picking up pins, even though she doesn’t do those things anymore.) She enjoys being with people – anyone! She’s the life of the party at ElderHouse, the senior daycare center she goes to twice a week. She believes she works there, and in many ways she does. She’s one of the mobile clients who loves to talk and move around. So her job is to talk to each person, give them hugs and provide entertainment by singing and dancing. She’ll be the one who’ll hold the snake when the local nature center volunteer comes for entertainment. Or sing along with the weekly piano player. And she loves children. It’s hard to keep her hands off them, especially in the supermarket. Music. Touch. Dancing. The core of her being.

She loves my dad. She calls him her ‘sweetheart.’ He nods and shakes his head. He enjoys coming to our house for dinner too. It gives him someone to have a conversation with. Politics. Religion. Taxes. Medical bills. And a meal that isn’t cooked by him in the microwave. The still both love to drink wine.

My grandmother also had Alzheimer’s. She lived with my parents for awhile until they couldn’t care for her anymore. Once she moved to a nursing home she deteriorated pretty quickly. For about a year she simply “was.” She died when she was 86. Deja vu. And what’s in store for me?

Tomorrow is my mother’s 84th birthday. My daughter is getting married next year. I guess I’ll get a cake with candles. We’ll live one day at a time.

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6 thoughts on “When I’m 84

  1. Sharon, this sounds just like my mom. You worded it so nicely. My mom does not know me. From the neck down, she too is perfectly healthy but doesn’t know anybody or anything (unless we just can’t see the signs that she may). I have lunch with her every Sunday but there is no communication. She is wheelchair bound and I pretty much feed her and just smile. It isn’t easy, Sharon, is it. Keep your strengh and faith. Thinking of you. (And let’s pray this does not happen to us!!!! xoxox

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    1. Thanks Patti. It’s amazing how much this disease has touched so many lives. I’m ready to be a candidate for any experimental drugs. I’ll think of you and your mom each Sunday as my parents are with us on Sundays.

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  2. A very touching tribute, Sharon. My father also had Alzheimer’s and I too wonder what the future will bring.

    For me it is a disease that is harder on the loved ones than the one in the throes of it. My dad had a sense of peace and contentment. He loved to watch fish in the tank, read a page over and over (aloud to me) and try to fix things (he was an engineer.)

    So I say dance with your mom and have a big piece of cake!

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  3. We traveled that road with our mother, too, Sharon. Some days the Alzheimer’s was a true blessing as you described in that a joy could be experienced over again. Other days the Alzheimer’s was a blessing in that I knew that whatever awful thing we were going through, I was thankful that she would very soon have no recollection of it. Blessings to you, your mother, and father as you walk this road.

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  4. Dear Sharon,

    What a poignant letter. I agree with Ann it is sad and beautiful at the same time. My mother died in 2008. She also had dimentia or Alzheimer. I don’t know the difference. It is sad to see ones mother or father be inflicted who we remember as very active and productive members of society. Although your mother doesn’t remember anything for long she seems to be joyful and willing to share her gift with others. God bless her. Congratulations to your daughter’s upcoming wedding. My daughter Rebecca married a nice young man in 2004. They live in Sacramento, CA.

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