A Long Absence may erase you from Memory
I first began to notice odd behavior in the year before Mom’s second husband passed away. It was nothing outrageous or ominous that pointed to Alzheimers, but Mom seemed to be forgetting folks she hadn’t seen in a few years. I took note, assessed it as a sign of aging and allowed the moment to pass. And I wasn’t reminded of those moments again until years later.
Back then, Mom and her hubby lived in an adult community kept busy by a flurry of activities. A coffee cliché every Tuesday, a pot-luck dinner on Friday nights, plenty of swim parties and other recreation as the population flourished through the winter months. During the summer, many of the homes sat empty, awaiting the arrival of the next winter’s “snowbirds.”
Snowbirds are a flock of Easterners who migrate to the Western states in the fall and stay till spring, abandoning winter months in their home-state for the sunshine of the West. Mom’s small community had many “regulars,” some had returned for a decade of winters. The regular residents could hardly wait for the snowbirds arrival each spring, when the enthusiasm of the community was back in full swing. Most had been friends for many years.
I arrived at mom’s one morning to find Mom and Dottie sunning on the front deck. Dottie was a widow about the same age as mom and a snowbird who lived in Wisconsin and wintered in Arizona for as long as mom had lived there.
Dottie’s home sat next door to Mom’s, and mom took pleasure in tending Dottie’s yard and garden while Dottie was back East in the fall.
Mom would miss Dottie dearly every spring when Dottie flew home to her own family and wait eagerly for her return in the fall. Both widows now, they were inseparable through the winter months.
“What are you pretty ladies doing this morning?” I asked as I sat down between them on an early morning visit to see Mom. “Are you glad to be back, Dottie?” Dottie had only arrived the day before.
“Mom sure misses you,” I told her. Dottie smiled and Mom frowned at me like my hair was on fire. I frowned right back.
“I miss your mom too,” Dottie reached over and squeezed Mom’s hand as she stood and excused herself. “I still have to unpack. I’ll see you gals later.” She smiled, waved and headed next door.
“What was that about?” I asked Mom.
“What?” she pretended to misunderstand.
“That “look” you gave me when I told Dottie you missed her every year. You do miss her, don’t you?”
Mom frowned and leaned forward, speaking for my ears only. “I hardly know that woman and she’s been sitting here for 2 hours. I ran out of things to say…”
I was so astounded by what she’d said, I didn’t know quite how to respond. I stayed silent instead but Mom’s words rang in my ears all the way home.
It was one of those moments in time when you can only scratch your head and say “what just happened?” I was haunted by this little, insignificant incident long after I went home and for weeks to come. I never truly understood what happened that day until many years later when Mom was finally diagnosed with Alzheimers.
Then I finally understood that the many months Dottie had been away had darkened Mom’s memory of her. And as Alzheimer’s advanced, I noticed those same lights went out for many of Mom’s immediate friends and family members. I also noticed a direct correlation between her memory and how recently she had spent time with each person.
In the case of Alzheimers, “Absence does not make the heart grow fonder, but a long absence can erase you from their memory entirely.” Stay in touch with your loved one who has dementia. Prolong your memory in their mind for as long as you can.
If a loved one or family member lives faraway – Digital photo frames are a great way to keep yourself fresh in their mind! A great gift idea for those with memory problems or early dementia–
Mom complained for weeks about my taking her car away. When I finally removed the Photo of her car from her dresser, she finally began to forget the darn thing….
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