And I broke my heart in two, one for me and one for you

My mom was a very crafty person and loved to crochet. When she first was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she crocheted all the time, a way to help keep her brain active. As time progressed and the disease began to take hold, it became more difficult to complete the more intricate designs of the squares she created in the months and weeks before. Soon enough, she moved on to making tightly constructed circles. Eventually, she just held the empty needles in her hand, roughly simulating the act of creating.

alzheimers

Remember how I said I’d come someday, baby? How I said I’d come around to see you one day?

Sometimes Christmas is about the happiness and joy of the holiday, about the time spent with family and basking in the warmth of that love. But sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s about accepting the sadness that the holidays can bring, the darkness of the winter, the long nights that give you no choice but to think and reflect, and sometimes, grieve.

I guess this Christmas has been more of the latter for me, one where I’ve just been working through my own shit, trying to understand this next chapter of my life, trying to process who I am, where I am, and what exactly I want to be doing next. This isn’t a bad thing–in fact, I almost look forward to winter for this very reason: a chance to really dig in on this heavier kind of thinking. But it certainly can come with its challenges, especially when trying to keep things merry and bright. Continue reading

Silver Linings.

I’ve been posting a lot recently about my recent frustrations and navigations through life lessons learned, but I feel it fair to report that the past couple of weeks have also had their strange silver linings.  Continue reading

One of “those” days…

Today is one of those days where the urge of missing my mother came very unexpectedly. It’s been a rather blergh day–everything outside is wearing its finest muted browns, greens, and greys–and internally I’ve been feeling a little stressed and restless. I’ve been working from home today, which is definitely a plus, but a lonely one. There’s been a lot to do, so I’ve pretty much been parked in front of the computer nonstop today, plugging along, trying to get to the next deadline…

When all of a sudden, the overwhelming feeling that my mom would be home soon took over–as if I was transported to 15 years ago when she was still working. I was a latchkey kid and so I generally had a golden hour or 2 to myself before mom got home. Depending on my age and the day, that hour leading up to her arrival even brought great dread or joy–usually punctuated by the ever-burning question of what would be for dinner. Continue reading

Calgon, Take Me Away.

At this point, I thought that I choked her. That she was gone enough, what’s left of her in my memory could just be gone, too. It had been so long since something affected me–I’ve even grown immune to the smell of her perfume.

But it was a cleaning spray that did it this time–one of Mrs. Meyer’s summer scents, Blue Bell. I’ve used it before and had a slight disdain for it, thinking I just didn’t like the fragrance. It wasn’t until tonight it finally hit me.

That was the scent of her bath oil–I can’t remember now if it was Avon brand or Skin so Soft. I only remember it was in a plastic bottle the color of the bathroom tile and she kept it under the sink. Continue reading

Now I’m overcome by the light of day; my lips are near but my heart is far away…

“Thanksgiving was nothing more than a pilgrim-created obstacle in the way of Christmas; a dead bird in the street that forced a brief detour.”
― Augusten BurroughsYou Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas

I like being awake when the rest of the world is not. It’s one of the few times during the day where I don’t feel some crazy sense of urgency to get somewhere, to do something, to accomplish something before the day is done. I’d like to get better at getting up early, but that also means I have to give up my beloved late-night routine. I’m realizing that I love both for the same reasons–the feeling of being the Only One Awake, the calm of not having to answer to anyone… The benefit to switching this routine to the morning hours is that I’m able to more easily transition into a functioning adult after getting up early vs. staying up hella late. Continue reading

Everyone has to eat and no one should feel bad about it.

Note: This actually started as a FB status, but by the time I was finished, I realized it was longer than most the blogs I’ve recently published. Consider this your lucky day, friends–you’re getting a 2-for-1 in posting. I guess this is a “thanks” for sticking by me while I’ve been dormant for so long…

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So, I went to ShopRite tonight–an errand that I *dread*, and tonight was no different–it was crowded, it was chaotic, I was hungry and tired. I just wanted to buy my few items and get OUT. I stood behind a family who seemed to be wrapping up their checkout and quickly realized that the mother was purchasing her items using her WIC (The New Jersey Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) check.

The clerk, who was probably 17 at most, was having trouble ringing up a couple of her items (eggs, tortillas, bread) because the computer was saying they weren’t covered and so he was asking his manager for help.

The manager, clearly annoyed, was giving him short answers to his questions, but would not just come over to help him through the transaction (granted, it was busy, but the kid was obviously unsure what to do and there were several other customers behind this family, which was making the kid even more nervous). The boy was trying to explain the situation to the family, and the manager yelled over, “Do they speak English? If they don’t, it’s not worth explaining. I’ll just have to get the things for them. Do they speak English or not?” Continue reading

See? Sometimes Alzheimer’s Can Be Funny…

Today has been a pretty grey day in the Garden State, which means that it was an early day for my dad, who is a farmer.

Being that I’m working from home today, I’ve spent the afternoon in front of the computer while my dad and mom sat on the couch and watched the news.

Today has not been a good day for my mom–she’s been fairly agitated and not really communicative. At one point she was trembling and near tears. When I’d ask her what was wrong, she would look up at me with a face of fear, clearly not recognizing who I am.

Although she perked up a bit when my dad came in, she’s still been relatively quiet, which, sadly, seems to be the new norm for her.

But when my dad got frustrated with one of the commentators on TV and exclaimed, “This guy is full of crap!”, my mom didn’t miss a beat. She turned, looked directly at him, and said, “So’s your head.”

 

The Beat Goes On

The benefits of using music as therapy for Alzheimer’s patients are pretty well documented, but seeing the complete transformation that takes place when my mom listens to music is still pretty extraordinary.

My mom was always a very musically inclined person–not only she was a gifted musician who played several instruments (the guitar, the French horn, and the flute, to name a few), but she also just loved listening to a variety of different bands and musicians across genres. My mom passed on her love for Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, Queen, and “oldies” to me. So many of my memories of her and my childhood are infused with the sounds of her and my dad’s music blaring the speakers in the living room or the old Pontiac Bonneville.

And music continues to be one of the strongest threads that connect us to who my mother was before the illness started to take over. The minute you turn on the Solid Gold Oldies station, she is singing, clapping, snapping, and stomping. And her clarity seems to improve almost instantly. She is more engaged, more happy, more alive than she was just minutes prior.

This morning I spent a few hours with her before my grandmom came to pick her up. We listened to oldies and I sang along (loudly and badly) while she whistled and snapped along (in proper rhythm, I might add). The highlight was when “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” started playing. Not only was she really into it, but she was also making it very obvious that she found my falsetto questionable (a fair observation).

It was nice to share a laugh with her and realize that you can still find happiness and normalcy in situations that, on the surface, seem like they leave no room for such luxuries.