As far back as I can remember, my mother always curled her hair. Way back, it was pin curls. Who remembers pin curls? Then she switched to rollers. Before she went anywhere, she had to “put her hair up.” Here she is about 20 years ago, in her mid 60s.
She still has far more sense than I will ever have. My mother. Who has Alzheimer’s disease. We decided that it was a lovely day for a walk along the ocean on Portland’s Eastern Promenade Trail. The sun was out. It was really warm. My mother reached into the closet for her fleece jacket. “Ma,” I said as brightly as the sun was shining. “It’s too warm for that jacket. How about something lighter?”
“No,” she called over her shoulder with equal brightness. “I’m always cold when other people aren’t. This will be just right. Are you sure you’ll be warm enough?”
On the promenade we rolled into the last available parking space and I hefted her wheelchair out of the trunk, shocked at how chilly it was. I grabbed my thin sweater in the back seat. Why is it that my mother is ALWAYS right?
An 80-piece jigsaw puzzle. No problem for a 9-year-old. Bit of a challenge for an 86-year-old with Alzheimer’s.
My mother loves puzzles. The lower shelf of her plant stand is filled with ones she bought just over the past year at yard sales and second hand stores. Boxes brimming with intricate, tiny pieces — 500, 1000, 2000. As soon as she got home, she’d sit down at her card table and, following the simple strategy she had perfected decades ago, began separating the edge pieces. She would start with gusto and intense concentration, but I think she only managed to finish one of the smaller ones, and not without some help. Before long, it wasn’t doing the puzzles that brought her pleasure anymore, it was finding ones that she liked and adding them to her growing collection.
I come from a big family — eight kids. We’re all adults now, with our own families and our own holiday traditions. But no matter how old you are, the traditions you grew up with are an important part of who you are. And so, if something interferes with the way things always were, it can be very unsettling. Continue reading
One shoulder slides up, the other one down. Fingers drum lightly along the table top. Boots tap against the floor.
“Hmmm, that’s a very good beat, isn’t it,” says my mother, making more of a statement than asking a question.”I never could dance,” she tells me as she continues to move her shoulders to the beat. “Your father could dance though. He took dance lessons.”
Guest post by my sister Cathy
The pies were in the pie basket. Apple and pumpkin, and custard for my mum. The cinnamon rolls were tucked in beside the pies. The odor was bringing back wonderful memories of past Thanksgiving dinners. I stopped to pick up Mum and then it was on to the feast at my friend Jane’s house. There would be 19 of us at the Thanksgiving table. Family and dear friends were gathering to enjoy each other’s company and eat good food.
“Do you know where Diane took me this afternoon?” my mother exclaimed when we got home. “She took me to visit a nursing home. Can you believe that?”
“Did you have a good time?” my nephew Mike asked. “Oh, yes, I had a wonderful time. Everyone was so nice and the place is lovely. I wouldn’t want to live there of course. I’m quite happy right here in my own home and have no intention of leaving.”
“So, don’t get any ideas Diane,” she added as she turned and smiled at me sweetly.
It’s true; we did visit what some people would call a nursing home. We went to Fallbrook Woods, an assisted living facility in Portland for people with memory issues. People like my mother Beverly, who has Alzheimer’s disease.