My mother is sick. She is very sick, and it has consumed me. She has always been a strong woman — emotionally and physically. But this illness is taking its toll. She will turn 84 years old this summer, and she is worried her health will affect her golf game! Yes, that kind of strong. She may fully recover and be able to play golf this summer — that is our goal, however, seeing her frail and weak makes me sad. This is new territory for both of us. I don’t want to be morbid, but it has been hard to watch her face her mortality. I see something in her eyes that has not been there before. And it grieves me.
The physical illness is acute right now, and is wrecking havoc on her body. My sibs and I are concerned about her heart and her lungs. But something else is going on, something friends and even doctors haven’t noticed yet. She can’t remember.
Mom has always loved to talk. She commands a room. And she frequently forgets what she has said to whom, and so repeats herself. She may tell me something 5 times — or forget to tell me at all. That is Mom; who she has always been. But this is different. She covers well, but I am with her often enough now, I know the truth. I know the details of her life, the sequence of events. She is confused. She can’t remember. And its scaring me.
I was raised in a family with 4 girls (and a boy), and I have four daughters of my own. I know first-hand that mother-daughter relationships can be tricky. My mom and I have always been on good terms. No major upsets. We have done fine. But we have lacked some common ground and some depth to our relationship. I have yearned for something more, and I have always kind of blamed her for the lack. But something has happened lately. Through doctor appointments, trips to the pharmacy, “pill box” dates, and frequent luncheons, Mom and I are together — a lot. We’ve finally ventured beyond the weather and Fox News. We’ve had some important talks. We’ve talked about life: her childhood, my Dad and us kids. We’ve even talked about death. I didn’t want to put extra worry on her (she has lost so much lately), but one conversation gently circled around her memory or lack thereof. I prodded softly, wanting her to open up and share what she thought was happening.
My Gramma forgot too. Not the alzheimer-kind of forget, but the “D” kind. We aren’t really saying it yet. Like if we don’t say the “D” word, it won’t happen. We are just talking about remembering and forgetting for now. There have been advances since Gramma walked this road. And Mom is already 10 years older than her mother was when her memory failed. I asked Mom permission to talk to the doctor about it at her next visit. I said, ‘He can’t help if he doesn’t know’.
We’ve since had the appointment. Yes. There it is. Now we know. I already feel the loss.
We are just beginning our journey with this new diagnosis. The meds haven’t kicked in yet. She is still confused, but I feel hope that Mom can be helped … that we can ward off this disease for as long as possible.
Our roles are kind of reversed now. I am watching over her. I’m checking in and calling. I am the caregiver. I feel an urgency to know her. To learn all I can. I want to stop the clock. This is how I have always felt about my children, but now…
There is a new depth to our relationship. Has it been me all along?
Lord, I don’t know what the days ahead hold for my Mom. But I know you have it under control. Psalm 139: 16 says, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” May we trust you fully each and every day.