Years ago, when my kids were younger, I read them a book called Are You My Mother? written by P.D. Eastman.
It’s about a baby bird in search of his mother, whom he has never seen because when he hatched, she was searching for food. He finds a kitten, a hen, a dog, and a Snort. But, he can’t recognise his own mother until the end.
It’s a lovely early reader book. My middle son loved this story most of all. I still have our worn torn copy.
Sometimes I wonder if my mom is still my mom. She does weird things. She says weird things. Inappropriate things. Really inappropriate things. She wears weird clothes. She tries to eat weird things. She calls me weird names. And most of the time she has no idea where she is or even what century she is in.
Once she was a beauty, full of life, hopeful. (That’s me on her lap.)
She raised her kids then went back to school and graduated with a Psychology degree.
Now, we joke that Mom is a troublemaker.
Last month she told my sister she had to quit her night job at the strip club. (My sister is a little too old to work at one of those. Not to mention, she never did work at one.) Mom also told us that she was going to quit her job as a police officer. (She never worked as a police officer.)
Two weeks ago she hid her toothbrush in her shoe and stuffed her pantyhose in the refrigerator.
Last week she set off the alarms at the adult day care center by trying to escape.
Last night she thought she was on a ship and kept my dad awake until 2:30 a.m.
This morning she was packing to go home. (She was at home.)
It’s difficult to recognize her as the mother I once knew. She’s the same and yet she’s a completely different person.
Watching someone you love slowly regress into someone else is hard. You are challenged by the inevitable changes. Your perception of them and of your relationship must change. Your expectations must change. Your way of communicating changes.
Double Uff da!!!
Is she still my mother?
Relationally, at this stage of her ALZ, she’s a backward Benjamin Button. While her body is aging, her mind is reverting to that of a child. She presses our buttons. She acts out. She forgets. We have to remind ourselves that she can’t learn new things as a child can.
We may not recognize our loved ones by the way they act, especially in later stages of ALZ, but we still love them.
My sister remarked that when she left mom at daycare, she was startled by how tiny she was now. Like a little bird. A little lost bird.
Kiss someone you love today. Remind them you will love them in sickness or in health. In good times and in bad.
Love conquers all.