Sunday, May 8, 2016
"To put it simply --- our brain span should match our life span." --- Meryl Comer
Mother's Day has come and gone, and as I prepare for bed after a lovely day out with my husband and children, my mind turns to a subject I've been subconsciously avoiding all day.
And all at once, I'm overwhelmed. I'm washing my face and suddenly, I'm in tears, completely unable to stop, because it's Mother's Day, and for the first time since I entered her life... I haven't called her to talk to her.
There is no phone in her room at the nursing home, because she no longer knows how to dial one. One of my sisters, or my nieces, has to call me on their mobile and hand the phone to her, and I have to hope she knows who I am.
I miss... I miss my mom.
Yes, she's still alive, but... I miss my Mom. I miss the woman I used to call for advice, her calm voice calming me, her laughter when I told her the latest funny thing the kids or the cats did, her excitement matching mine when I told her about a new rose in my garden blooming for the first time and promising her pictures. I miss her humor, her intelligence when she'd challenge me about my opinions, making me back up my statements with facts. I miss the stories she used to tell me. I miss... asking her about recipes, and her rattling off the list of ingredients and how to make it, and then the pause before I said, "Okay, Mom, but... how did you make it?" And then getting the real recipe.
I miss the woman she was before Alzheimer's stole her from me. And I want her back. I want her back, dammit.
But I know I won't get her. I know she's gone, and what's left behind is this... shell that looks like her, and talks like her, and moves like her, and gives me occasional glimpses of the woman she used to be...
I'm terrified that I'll be just like her. I'm terrified that I'll lose myself, that I'll forget my husband, and my children. Just two days ago, my daughter stared at me with stricken eyes and said, "Mom.... don't forget me. Don't ever forget me, please. Please."
I smiled through my tears and said, "Like I could ever forget you!" And prayed in my heart to whoever is listening that I can keep that promise. "When they develop a vaccine for Alzheimer's, I'm first in line, I promise," I said.
Every time I forget something, every time I can't bring a word or a face to mind, every time I struggle for a word, every time I can't remember a name, or something that happened earlier in the day, a jolt goes through me and I want to scream. It doesn't help that memory issues and fogginess are a hallmark of Hashimoto's.
A few months ago, when we went to the Ikea in Pflugerville, I had a moment. A horrible, horrible moment. Mike was driving, and we had just left 183 and turned onto I-35. I was reading something on my phone, and I looked up when I was done and for a horrible, horrible moment that seemed to last an eternity, I thought, "Where are we? I don't recognize this place! Where... what is this?"
It was terrifying. Nothing looked even remotely familiar, and this was a drive we'd made hundreds of times over the last ten years.
I didn't say anything, I just quietly stared around, trying to force my brain to recognize something, anything....
Then Mike, who was completely unaware of what was going through my mind, said, "Wow, things have changed so much since the last time I drove through here, I almost don't recognize anything! Oh, look, the bowling alley is still right there."
I turned my head, and the bowling alley we took the Impertinent Daughter to for her fourth birthday, the birthday she found out she was going to have a sibling, was still there, looking just the same as it had nineteen years ago, and the world slipped back into place.
It wasn't me. It was that it had been nearly two years since the last time we'd drove that way, and the rapid changes in Austin and the surrounding area meant many things had been torn down and new buildings gone up in their place.
But for that moment, that one terrifying moment...
I miss my mother more than I can say. And at some point tomorrow, I will probably text one of my sisters and ask to arrange a time to talk to Mom over the phone. And after I talk to Mom, I will go take a shower so I can cry my heart out without my family knowing. I once said that watching my mom go through this was like standing on a shore while my mother stood in a boat that was slowly drifting away from the shore. That we were holding hands as it drifted, and ever so slowly, she was slipping from my grasp, and that I knew one day, she would drift completely away.
Right now... the tips of our fingers are barely touching, barely connecting.
I hate that there is nothing I can do to change that.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I miss you, and I will remember you... for as long as I can...