My Mom Has Alzheimer’s

I expected roles to change, but never this.


Mother’s Day


In the past couple of years, Mother’s Day has become a mixed blessing for me.  I am a mother myself, and dearly enjoy my maturing daughter, but though my mom is still technically alive, Alzheimer’s has robbed her of her ability to mother me.  It makes for a wild ride—a roller coaster of emotions.  I swing between sadness, grief, anger, and the occasional joy over an old memory, with no time to prepare for the transition.


Where Is She?


Alzheimer’s is a strange and vicious beast.  Though I can still reach out and hold her hand, I have no idea where my mom of old has gone.  She’s there, but she isn’t.  She still answers some of my questions—as long as it’s a yes or no thing.  She’ll even smile from time to time, but I can’t be certain whether she’s responding to me or whether she lives in some special world just beyond—a world hidden from the rest of us. I just wish there was a way to know what she was feeling.  Would she want this?  Is she content or frustrated?  Does she understand her situation?  Does she care?  I can only hope her world is pleasant and the memories that do come bring a sense of relief and joy.




I never expected I’d lose Mom twice—once to this awful disease and inevitably to the day she finally passes from this world.  All I know is she isn’t sharing my life and world anymore and that produces a torrent of grief.


The Cycle


When I was still a little girl, I had great fears my parents would die and I would be left heartbroken and alone. Later, I learned those were the fears of a young child and not at all uncommon.  As I grew older, I began to understand that parents do pass on.  Dying is just the consequence of living.  We may be sad about it, but it’s all a part of the natural order and we do survive.


How Can You Predict This?


The one thing I never dreamed was Mom would lose her mind.  Nor did I comprehend what something like that really meant.  It’s hard to imagine losing memories, or losing whole portions of your brain that drive personality and passion. There was nothing in my life’s agenda that prepared me for something this profound.  I planned on my parents growing older in relative health.  Sure, they might suffer from various ailments that would slow them down, but they’d still be able to reason and communicate with me.  I fully expected they would pass on the “parent baton” as the time came and they would embrace the role of grandparents.  And it seemed to be going that way—or at least it was until this illness appeared and wiped expectation away.


Shifting Roles


The thing is I was ready to assume the role of parent to my parents—to host family gatherings and to be the go-to place for the holidays. However, nothing could have prepared me for a mom who now acts more like an innocent child than a grown woman.  She requires constant eagle-eye tending.


If Only


I wish I could just sit with Mom to reminesce about the fun things.

I miss the Mom that used to be.

I wish I could talk with mom and do all the fun things we used to.  How I’d love to hear about her latest recipe or listen to her share a story over discovering a new treasure at a garage sale. How great it would be to reminisce on past gatherings and have some of those “do you remember when” conversations.  We could just sit and laugh and chat about the truly silly things we once did.  I had also hoped my daughter would have ample time to enjoy her “Nana” and to gather those bits of wisdom that are better given and received from the perspective of a grandparent. And none of this is happening—Mom is here, but she’s not.  She’s gone somewhere I can’t—a place I pray I never go myself.


Will She Know?


I plan to visit Mom in “the home” this Mother’s Day. If she still understood it, she would probably laugh and smile at that comment, because to us the home was a familyism—a part of our special family lingo.  In this case, going to a home was something we joked about—thinking it would never really apply.  So this Mother’s Day, I’ll sit and visit with Mom in the place we never expected she’d end up, and all the while I’ll be wondering of the irony.  I’ll take her hand while I’m there and talk to her.  I’ll tell her how much I love her and miss her, but I’ll do it having no idea whether she really understands my meaning.


Hanging By A Thread


I suppose I should consider myself lucky—though if it is luck it’s a wispy thing that’s hard to hang onto.  I go through all these mental gyrations.  If I get angry or sad about Mom’s situation, I start to feel guilty.  Then I tell myself I should be happy Mom’s alive.  After all, isn’t being alive a great gift in itself and one I should rejoice in?  And shouldn’t I be thankful for the time we still have to spend together before she makes a final exit from this world?  And yet, it’s impossible to deny the grief.  It just wasn’t supposed to be this way.


My Heart Goes Out


Mom really enjoyed tulips this time of year.

Mom loved gardening. This was the time of year she really bloomed.

Many of my dear friends will be without their moms this year.  I share their loss and hope they can find comfort in the memories of the mothers they still hold near and dear to their hearts.  I know I will try my best to remember my mom the way she used to be.  And perhaps more important, I plan to enjoy the company of my daughter, and to remember how lucky I am to be the mom of such a wonderful young woman.


Here’s to making each new day a day to celebrate moms and their daughters.  Give your mom a hug for me.


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One Response to My Mom Has Alzheimer’s

  • gweny duke says:

    My heart aches for you my friend! May you be comforted by your sweet memories.xo


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