Back in April, I posted my thoughts after reading all the moving stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers. I specifically mentioned the story “Remembrance” by Wendy Poole as my favorite dementia story, but I wondered why Wendy and her mother shared only six weeks of happiness at the piano with Wendy’s mother singing show tunes while Wendy played for her.
Recently I was delighted to learn the rest of the story from Wendy herself, as she contacted me to answer my question. As it turned out, her mother’s illness had progressed to the point that she needed to be moved to a nursing home. The piano recitals were no longer possible from the new facility, and the therapeutic ritual became another short but sweet memory in Wendy’s Alzheimer’s journey with her mother.
All dementia caregivers have stories to share, events in the progression of this devastating illness that have changed them profoundly. While these stories are all personal tributes to loved ones, there is a bittersweet commonality between them to which all caregivers can relate. Wendy was kind enough to share another of her stories with me, one she originally submitted to her local newspaper for Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Thanks to Wendy for filling in the blanks and also allowing me to share her poignant story with others here.
By Wendy Poole
This month recognizes Alzheimer’s disease. Every family affected by this disease has a story. Some are humorous, some filled with hope, some bittersweet. Mine is just a remembrance.
I stayed with my mother for three months after my father’s death.
Some days we had time periods where I knew I had my mom back. Together we conversed about her grandchildren, her childhood; we would sit at the piano and sing show tunes. But usually by late afternoon she would question who I was. She knew me in the morning as her daughter but by the end of the day the belief that I was her child was gone.
At the end of the three months my mother was placed in a nursing home.
I felt relief, sadness, strength and sorrow-and uncertainty. The uncertainty of what the future would be for her and the uncertainty of our future as mother and daughter. I saw and feared the path we were on. It was a pathway with no place for us to sit and view the beauty of her life-past or future.
On that last morning I was in the bedroom drying my hair when I realized my mother was watching me from the bedroom doorway. She came in quickly, and quietly stood behind me. Her soft hands stroked my head gently and lightly. Her fingers began to comb through my hair, raising strands of it up and away, her fingers fluttering as they moved through the hair to make sure it wouldn’t tangle. The fine strands of hair hung in the air suspended briefly as they caught the dryer’s heat before falling back in place.
I couldn’t speak I was so overwhelmed by the moment. I became for that brief second the little girl whose mother had so many years before done the exact same thing. In that microcosm second that single silly simple bubble of memory wrapped around us. Neither of us spoke. And in that short moment I knew I never wanted that brief span of time to end, even though it was already changing, I knew I never wanted her to leave me, knowing that there could be no other choice.
I knew I wanted her to continue to share all the wondrous things that she had shared with me so many times before, knowing that those times were never to be fully revisited. I knew I wanted to share with her the things mothers and daughters share- like going out for an afternoon and walking through stores, chatting about anything and everything as we walked up and down the aisles, and I knew we both would be cheated and robbed of that because it would never again be possible.
Image courtesy of Patrishe