Moms Birthday…85 Years Old
Today was bitter sweet visiting with my Mother at the nursing home. Bitter as my mind took a tour of the almost 12 years she has lived there. When Mom first moved in she was still very mobile and social. Many who met her thought she was a visitor. Throughout the years, Alzheimer’s has robbed more and more of her skill sets.
Now at age 85, Mom is unable to take care of any of her own needs. She is totally dependent on others to feed, toilet, dress and interact with her. My mind thought of the reason Mom wanted to move into the nursing home in the first place. Yes, you heard me right. She wanted to move into the nursing home because my Father’s cancer had taken it’s toll and he was unable to live independently the last few months of his life.
By the time Dad died in 2001, Mom was totally comfortable in her new environment. Friends and long lasting relationships had been developed. Today, as I sit in the dining room with my daughter Danielle and my Mother, it soaked in just how many are no longer there. This includes residents that have passed on, as well as staff who have moved on. Much of the staff today were people who were not familiar with the shift and routines. A holiday crew I guess you would say. They tried, but the lack of specific knowledge of the individuals they were serving and the standard routines, just broke my heart.
My Daughter Danielle, on the other hand made my heart melt. She is so wonderful engaging and loving her Grandma. Her efforts appear so natural and compassionate. As I watched the two of them together, my eyes swelled with tears. The small things she has learned over the years in terms of how to feed her Grandma, the tone of voice she uses, the soft touch so tender when embraces her Grandma or as she just sits contently and rubs her head watching for a small smirk or Grandmas eyes to open was such a gift for me to see.
Danielle and my Mom have always been close. Grandma used to watch Danielle when she was small. Now the roles have reversed and a Granddaughter lovingly dotes on her Grandma. Even when Danielle picks a gift for my Mother she thinks about how it will feel against my Moms skin, or if there is a scent she will like, or when food she evaluates the texture and taste to make sure it will be a good match for her Grandma. It makes me smile as I see their love for one another has not waned. It is still very much mutual and intact, even if expressed differently.
As Danielle and I left, today I once again could not help but wonder will this be Moms’ last birthday? Will it be our last New Years Day with her? For the last four years I admit I have wondered this same thought, never thinking she would still be with us. Thinking that the “end stages” would have taken it’s toll on her. Needless to say, I have learned we truly have no idea how long this journey will last. But what I have learned, is that my Mother has continued to teach me as well as others, important life lessons throughout her 30 year journey with memory loss.
This year was again different, as we did not have a Birthday Party for Grandma. I won’t get into the details as it has to do with family dynamics…. and we all have those times to deal with.
Will this be a sense of guilt for the family? I think so, but both my daughter and I have gotten to a place of not taking on the responsibility for others decisions. We can only be responsible for our own actions and reactions and I think both Danielle and I are comfortable with our decision to visit and celebrate Grandmas Birthday with her.
Last, I want to thank my Mom for teaching me so much through your illness. I am truly blessed by the lessons she taught me and I promise to continue help others through my work with Alzheimer’s Speaks.I hope you will join us!
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