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Do you know her?

Posted: August 3, 2017 4:18 p.m.
Updated: August 4, 2017 1:00 a.m.

“Before my brain became a tangled web of amyloid plaques, I could read for hours. Before my words became merely an alphabet of ashes, I loved conversations with my friends and family.  Before I felt so agitated and sad, I enjoyed laughing and telling silly jokes. Before an illness took my motor skills, I liked to walk around the block. Before my mind became a dark forest of forgotten memories, I knew your name. 

“Now I feel a gloomy fog overwhelming my thoughts. Before the doctor told me my brain was sick, life was good. Before I arrived at the edge of this steep cliff of uncertainty, I was whole. Before my mind jumped on a fast track of deterioration, my home made me feel safe but no longer. Before my memory failed me, I knew I loved you. I think I still do. I cannot remember. I do not think you are a stranger, but someone I love. 

“But you can understand what I am thinking, what I am feeling, if you look in my eyes. Can you see what they say? Do I know you? I can’t say for sure. What odd map do I follow? There are so many holes. Can you help me find my house? I don’t know you, but I believe you are nice. You remind me of my daughter; she had your eyes, blue they were. Do you know her? I want to tell her so many things. I am still here. Do not worry. I am not lost. 

“I wish I could tell her not to cry. I can’t, though. I no longer have any words. They all have been stolen from me. Why, I wonder. Do you know why? 

“Sometimes I feel I am suspended by a string, but it is fraying so rapidly. I might fall. Will someone catch me? I have no place to go except here where I sit. I sit. I look. I think, but my thoughts fade to blank and black. This sad girl visited me today. Do you know who she is? I think I do. She was sad. She had yellow hair and eyes like a somber ocean. She told me she was my daughter. She told me she loves me. I smile at her. Do I know her? I can’t remember. 

“Perhaps one day the ugly battle I fight will give meaning to our love and life together. I want to hug her and wipe away the water on her cheeks. 

“Why is she so sad?” 

What if our family members who suffer from Alzheimer’s, the disease with no survivors, could step out of their unstructured and chaotic world for just one day and speak to their loved ones, spewing words from their mouths like a volcano throwing its bright-colored lava? The excerpt above is what I imagine my mother would say if she regained her mind and speech for a day. I can just see the dining room at the memory care unit where she lives now; the families weeping and hanging on every single letter, word coming from their loved one. Oh, the joy we would feel; speech becoming our single best friend. But quickly we come back to the edge of uncertainty and march on in the best we know how. I strive to accept this long goodbye and to love my mother’s present state as much as I loved before her mind was taken; continue to sit in front of her and make her feel what’s behind my eyes -- unconditional love.

And hoping she still has sweet dreams at night …

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