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Column: I'm not going to remember...

Posted: March 1, 2018 4:44 p.m.
Updated: March 2, 2018 1:00 a.m.

Of the 10 leading causes of death in America, there is only one disease that cannot be prevented, slowed or cured. This one disease has already affected 5.5 million people and by 2050, this number could rise to 16 million. Every 66 seconds, this one disease takes up residence in another person. And since the year 2000, the mortality of this one disease has increased by 89 percent. More than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for a loved one suffering from this one disease and like so many of my generation, I was once part of that large number. This one disease is progressive, terminal, irreversible, incurable. 

This one cruel disease has plagued my mother for nine years and counting. But she can’t tell you what this one disease is; she can’t remember. In fact, she can’t remember anything. My mother suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease as you may have guessed. Her mind is gone, but she is still here. 

We have been bidding our mother this painful, long goodbye for almost a decade. Since the diagnosis, we have trekked over unstable terrain in this unpredictable illness. Alzheimer’s patients cannot remember yesterdays; nor can they plan for tomorrows. The todays are foggy or pitch black. It’s partly today; it’s partly yesterday or it’s neither. The days are as unpredictable as the changing weather. At times, Alzheimer’s patients can be like pawns on a chessboard -- motionless, faceless, waiting to be moved, all the while standing on a dreary mosaic of black and white. Other times, patients can appear to be content and peaceful in that very trice, wherever their mind resides on their “today.” It can be a place of harmony. It may be the present; it may be a flicker of the past; but what is certain is that this piece of time belongs to them for as long as there is still life in their brains. They are still here. 

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wonder about my mother’s mind and what thoughts, if any, she may have. At this more than sad crossroad, I try hard to rely more on the good Godly truths rather than the irrational ones. 

I do think a lot about the minds of those suffering from Alzheimer’s especially during the moments I am in my mother’s presence. Regardless of the blank, emotionless stares, I imagine their thoughts to be similar to the following:  “I get confused; I forget your name; but I am still your husband. I am still your best friend. I am still your mother, your sister. I miss my car -- someone took my keys. I miss my house. Where do I live? I am ready to go home. Do I live at your house? Who are you? What is your name? Are you my daughter? I don’t remember you. Should I? What I do know is I like to throw a ball. I like to walk outside. I like the sunshine. It feels warm on my face. I think it does. Does the sun make you feel warm? I know I love children and their happy faces. I love good times and old times. Maybe I won’t know the blue sky anymore. Perhaps I won’t know who I am looking at today or tomorrow. I may not know who I saw yesterday, or what I ate, or if I ate. 

But, today I know what blue is. I know the sky. I know the outside. I know your face. It is pretty. And I can feel my heart. It smiles when I see you. Your face is familiar. I do know that. I may forget you. I will forget you. But please, don’t forget me. I am someone you love. I was someone you loved. 

I’m not going to remember. 

You remember for me --  and don’t forget I am still here…

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