Sorting through a never ending storage unit I found a photo in a box marked Important. It was a high school portrait of my mother, and she wrote on the back:
Don't I look sad, though. Don't let it scare you.
The front says:
Love Always Lorraine. Always is underlined three times. Somehow it fits. My mother is down to three word sentences, and that's when she's on a roll. When I got to the Alzheimer's Ward this week they told me she had been crying. Her eyes were rimmed with red, and she was standing alone in the middle of the room holding herself up with a walker.
It sometimes helps to try to pull her out of it with questions and answers.
"This is Karen - I'm your daughter."
"We were surprised."
"You're my mom. You grew up on a dairy farm."
We passed the time waiting for the pie my husband was picking up. Sweets are the last frontier when memory and sensation are gone. My mother is a hand kisser now, but there was a moment when my hand must have looked like pie. "Hand. Not pie." I explained, yanking it back from what was not going to be a kiss.
It's easy to take the good days as a placebo. This was not one. At one point mom sat down out of the blue, no chair in sight, and my brother saved the day by zooming in just before she hit the floor.
"Soccer catch," he described.
Family can put the best possible face on a horrific situation, and that's what my mother has been doing for a very long time. There was a moment when it seemed like she needed something but didn't have the words and quietly said, "Lord help me."
Not knowing what to do, I started in with a stream of words as if they could bring her back.
"Your eyes are crystal blue. Mine are green. They're green like Dad's."
"Can't see them."
Our goodbyes aren't as long anymore, and I'm trying to accept that she has forgotten me before I'm gone. Through fifty years and dusty boxes it feels like my mother has somehow slipped me a note in her late stage of Alzheimer's Disease.
Don't I look sad, though.
Don't let it scare you.
Love Always Lorraine