Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Loving a Stranger

 My mom's birthday would have been on July 9th.  She would have been 83.  It was a tough day for me.  I began blogging when my parents moved in with us in 2005.  I struggled with having another woman in my house....especially when that woman was my mom.  My mother gave birth to me, her first born, when she was 25 years old.  Three years later she gave birth to my brother.  When I was a child I thought that was ancient.  My mom and dad were the kind of love story you read about.  She was hopelessly devoted to the man and he thought she hung the moon.  They were a golden couple living in Camelot....that is until my brother diedin 1963 at the age of 5(he would turn six 16 days later).  My mom mentally left this world during this time.  She was destroyed and there was nothing my father nor I could do to fix it.  Life moved mom came out of her depression in time, and she and daddy lived one of the fullest Christian lives I know.  They traveled all over the south and did Experiencing God weekends for Baptist churches, they were active and loved life....of course I had already left home and it was just the two of them.  In 2005 my father began his downward spiral healthwise.  He went through prostate cancer, several bouts with pneumonia, and finally lung cancer.  My mom began showing signs of Alzheimers during this period.  They came to live with Frank and I until 2009 when they took a joy ride and were missing for over 48 hours.  After this adventure their doctor finally believed me about my mom's weird behavior and sent them to an asisted living facility.  They seemed to wither away longer were they free to take their freewheeling adventures down the back roads of Alabama and my heart grieved to watch them like this.  In late September my dad was put in a Hospice Respite care facility before being moved to a nursing home.  He lived there less than 24 hours.  Lung cancer took his life in 2009. We brought my mom home while we made funeral arrangements and had the funeral.  It amazed me how she could stand at my dad's casket so stoically while I came apart at the seams.  After the funeral and then we took her back to the nursing home and that is where the nightmare began.  The woman I knew as my mother came unglued.  I sat on the curb outside the nursing home while she took swings at my husband, daughter,and the orderlies.  My cousin, Judy, and best friend, Mary stayed the night with her and the next day we made arrangements to get her into a psych ward in Birmingham.  I felt like I was being torn in to.  It was that time that I began to notice her tapping her fingers on her chair in a syncopated rhytm that reminded me of big band tunes.  She would talk about my dad, and people who had died many years before as if they had visited her.  She was moved back to a nursing home near me that had mega security so she could not escape and I visited her every day.  Somedays I was Karen and Frank was my husband....other days I was Karen and Frank was friend....or my brother.  She would sit in her chair and stare out into space and talk about times long passed.  The worst thing she tried to do was escape.  My moms mind unraveled a little bit each day.  She loved to hear me sing so I set up a time to go and sing for the Alzheimers unit only.....when I arrived she made me sit with her while we waited for Karen to come and sing.  The nurse told her I was Karen and she became very aggitated....she was not talking about this Karen (me), she was talking about the other Karen (the one who sings).  I cried all the way home that day.  It broke my heart.  I did everything I could to fight the disease.  For Christmas in 2010 I made a photo calendar for her to help refresh her memory.....when I showed her an early picture of my parents...she called me a liar.  She escaped rhe unit with two other ladies one night....they were planning to steal a car and go to Walmart and get a job.  When the nurses called to tell me....I had to laugh.  For a few brief moments I had my mom back....the real mom....not the person living in her body and mind.  Eventually she forgot how to eat and they gave her pureed food to eat.  My mom was such a dignified woman....this hurt.  She struck out at me verbally....and then wanted me to get into her bed and hold her til she fell asleep.  I learned after attending counseling sessions that this person was not my mom and I should not blame her for things she said or did.  The Alzheimers was talking not her.  Before the disease took her mom was a strong woman and never admitted fear or sadness.  After the disease she was quite free with her emotions...especially anger.  I learned that visiting my mom daily would be a repetitious event....same story, same time, and for her...same day.  It was kind of like the movie, 50 First Dates.  My mom died the 11th of April and was buried on the 14th, my dad's birthday.  I realized with the loss of my mom that Alzheimers was a blessing.  If my mom had lost my father and still been in her right mind....she would have snapped.  In my mom's dad was in the nursing home with her....working.  It was a God thing for sure.  When I tell people my story most of them get that "ohh I am so sorry" look on their faces. Some of them share their Alzheimer stories with me....and believe me I appreciate that because it makes me feel less alone.  Those who pity me, don't please!  I learned to accept and love this new Wilma.  I learned how to love a stranger.  She still had the essence of my real mom.  My knowledge of my mom is in my memories and permeates from my very being.  Even Alzheimers could not take that away from me.  When I look in my mirror....she looks back at me.....and I smile. 


Anonymous said...

"I realized with the loss of my mom that Alzheimers was a blessing."

I realized this too, Karen. And when I say it, people give me a strange look. It was a blessing in a different way for me, however, in that it kept me from missing my mom when it was her time to go.

Thanks for sharing your story. :)

Sweet Tea said...

"When I look in my mirror....she looks back at me.....and I smile."

I still have my Mom, but I do the same thing.

I lost my Dad to Alz 5 years ago, so I totally understand.

Mid-Atlantic Martha said...

My mother had this wicked disease as well. I've told people that the progression is sort of like having a beautiful drawing of someone, but everyday a little bit of it gets erased away. I deeply mourned the erasings. When she died, I too, felt relief....for her and for my father as well. That's certainly the blessing of being a Christian....knowing that there is something better ahead of us.

Debby@Just Breathe said...