Monday, March 27, 2006
That's my mother's high school graduation picture - 1947.
Monday nights mom and I have a tradition. We stay up "late" to watch Jay Leno's Stupid Headlines - mom loves them. Now, about 9:00 she'll start heading for bed and I tell her "mom, it's Monday night - we have to watch Leno's headlines". "Oh yes, I like those" and she'll go back to her chair to watch whatever else is on at the time. We'll go through this a few times until 10:00 when I join her to watch the news. Then Leno comes on. She still gets quite a bit of his monologue and laughs/giggles along with everyone else. But I've noticed something lately. She doesn't seem to "get" a lot of the headlines. The humor is too subtle and I end up having to explain a few of them to her. That really takes the fun away for me. Just last year, those same headlines would have had her laughing out loud, now there's just empty giggles or silent stares. A sign that the Alzheimer's is silently winning this war we've fought so hard to contain. I knew we wouldn't win, but I had hoped to stave it off for a while longer. I'm not ready to lose her yet. I shouldn't be too upset - after all, we've managed to put off the inevitable a lot longer than a lot of people. The life-span of an Alzheimer's patient is usually around 10 years after diagnosis. Mom was diagnosed in 2001. Officially. We (the family and doctor) really knew she had it for a couple of years before that. So by this time in Alzheimer's years she ought to be a lot farther along than she is. By this time, most patients are already in nursing homes, no longer cognizant of present family members, living mostly in the past. Mom still knows who we are, she still knows that her husband, parents and one child are gone. She still knows where she is. But I can see little bits of her disappearing every day. Slowly, the mother that I knew, the woman that I relied upon for my entire life, is fading away. People ask me why I'm so tired all of the time - after all, mom doesn't require any real "work" yet. Have you ever watched anyone fade away (Ruby has)? My father was in hospice in our living room for about 3 weeks before he died. We watched him leave. But this is different. I've often referred to Alzheimer's as a "dying of the soul". Where the "life" of a person silently vanishes, leaving only an empty shell. I used to see flashes of my mother every now and then, but even those are getting few and far between. I have a teenager on my hands most of the time now, a toddler at other times. And I miss my mother.