Dedicated to all who are and were caregivers to their aging parents or spouses. To who ever learned the true meaning of Alzheimer’s and yet still had to wonder why. To the families who knew the meaning of remembrance.
February 17, 1997, I took Mama to the Family Practice Center in Chapel Hill to be tested for Alzheimer’s. Mama was being recorded on camera while in the room, she did not want to take off her clothes to be examined nor did she corporate with the doctor just to listen to her heartbeat. After the physical examine there were more tests, while going from room to room she was always on camera. Later Dr. Fisher left to check the test, as we remained being recorded. Mama was so scared; she did not know what was going on, she kept asking me what the reason was for all this, trying to explain the best way I knew how to let her know she was sick. With a big smile on her face, she sit back and said to me proudly; “I’m not sick, I feel fine, you are the one sick!” This was so cute, she could make you laugh sometimes at the funny things she would say and especially the way she said them. Pacing back and forth she kept wringing her hands in front of her as we waited for the doctor to come back with the results. She kept saying to me in a frustrated voice, “let’s get out of here, they aren’t coming back.” She was so very jittery and upset about being there, she was ready to go!
During the time Mom spent with me, I indeed had to learn patience and kindness, because when all is said and done, without these two things in life -you will never find peace…
Doctor Stephen Fisher was her physician; I could tell by the look on his face, when he walked in the room he dreaded to tell me the words I didn’t want to hear. No, please, my heart sank as he began to tell me those dreadful words, “Sylvia, your Mother has Alzheimer’s.” I could hardly respond as I took her frail little hand in mine and held it so tight until it had started turning blue. Crying, I hugged her, I paced the floor feeling as if my world had fell apart. Oh my God, what will we do! She seemed so strong never sick, always there for us, this is our mama! I knew yet I didn’t want to believe the words he had just said to me. God doesn’t put on us no more than we can handle – I knew if I believed God would hear me, He would give me the strength to care for Mama.
She watched me as I cried to the doctor asking how could we cope, what were the steps to take to make sure Mama would be okay. He answered as honestly as he could, “Just treat her as if she were daughter.” All the while Mama sit, smiling at him and saying; “this is my cousin, Dorothy!” In pure agony I listened as she talked to him saying she lived with her mama and daddy, her sister and two brothers. She doesn’t remember they had passed away, leaving just she and her sister behind.
Throughout the long enduring months after being told our Mother had Alzheimer’s; it was so hard to realize she had forgotten her family. This was a struggle for all of us; she had basically forgotten how to do anything. There were no more phone calls, cards or that sweet voice talking to us anymore, it wasn’t her with that cute little smile or just a friendly hug, she had forgotten how to do all those things. Medically through testing, her brain had given way to a devastating disease that would now control her every being. No more laughter, just a frown, no more talks, just a whisper and now there were tears, tears that could not be explained. Worrying and fretfulness took over this loving lady, wondering where her children were or anything she could have thought of. She ha just lost everything. Alzheimer’s stripped Mama of ever knowing she had a family, friends or anyone and now it was our turn to care for her. Little did we know she would endure such a loss in these few years we cared for her. Watching her slip away in her own little shell there were times I could have screamed, “please just go away and let her be, this is my Mama!” nothing in the world, no medicine or anything can change what this disease has done to this warm, loving woman, my Mama.