Alzheimer’s Steals Memories
Shopping trips had become a tradition that Mom never remembered afterwards but we certainly enjoyed at the time. We laughed and talked and shared childhood memories; some hers, some mine. Either way, They were always new and fresh because Mom had no memory of our recent times together. I think she still remembered when I had my tonsils removed at two years old, which was 50+ years ago, and that was about as recent as her memory could get.
Our trips away from the “Group Home” generally depended on her mood. Mom took several medications, both for physical ailments and agitation induced by the affects of Alzheimers. Sometimes she felt really good and other days she dipped into sadness and depression.
On one particularly “good” day, we set off for a morning of shopping and an afternoon lunch at McDonald’s so Mom could watch the children in the “play area.” Mom’s all time favorite thing to do. On this day we’d had an exceptionally good time. Mom’s mood was jubilant and we’d laughed and chatted till our sides hurt. By the time we headed back to the Group-Home we were giggly, happy, laughing, and arguing over who got the bathroom first after our arrival.
We had been gone for more hours than usual and the last store we visited had no restroom. Now, I could only hope we both had dry pants by the time we pulled into the Mom’s driveway.
“I’m going first, Mom,” I teased feigning a serious tone, as I swung the car door open.
“Not if I beat you,” Mom grinned as mischievously as any child playing games– We sounded more like children than Mom and daughter, both pushing the elderly category.
We laughed as we filled our arms with shopping bags, boxed Donuts, and an over-sized, Puppy with mournful eyes that Mom could not resist. And thankfully, Mom made no attempt to out-run me as we headed toward her room.
In Mom’s suite we piled our goodies in a tall heap like icing atop her freshly-made bed.
“I beat you,” I squealed as I pushed into the bathroom first and closed the door behind me. It could not have been a sweeter day. Mom had been free of depression or sadness for the entire day.
With relief, I washed my hands and swung the bathroom door open wide into Mom’s bright and cheery bedroom.
Mom stood facing the dresser with her back to me but her eyes staring at my reflection through the mirror from behind her. She spun around quickly with a frightened look on her face.
“What’s wrong,” I asked. Thinking surely she wouldn’t think a stranger would be entering through her bathroom. “Mom, it’s me.”
“You scared me,” she said as the dark shadow melted away and her lips finally parted in a smile. “Oh my gosh,” she said. “You scared me to death. When did you get here?”
Then she pointed to all the packages, and added, “What is all this stuff? Why did you bring me so much stuff today? I didn’t even know you were coming. Is it my birthday?”
I felt like crying, “No,” I said instead. “I just went shopping this morning and found a few things I thought you might like.” My smile was strained, and I felt little joy.
Inside, I wanted to cry. All the fun we’d had, all the good memories we’d shared, such a pleasant day, a sweet memory for me but already forgotten for Mom. In her limited recollections–it never happened at all.
Sometimes great happiness can also bring deep sadness. But I still remember that day and all the fun we had. And I also remember that Mom was right there beside me, feeling and knowing the same pleasures. Now, I’m grateful for all those days we shared while we could.
No matter how deep into dementia our loved one may be, we can make many sweet memories to savor for a lifetime.