By Lisa Hirsch
INTERVIEWING MY MOM WITH ALZHEIMER'S
"Mom, what does it feel like not to be able to remember something"? She answered, "it's not always so bad not to remember everything". Wow, I thought as she spoke these words. Several years ago I had presented a similar question to her, for I often wondered what it must be like. I too sometimes forget some simple things, and for a second I think, do I also have the starts of dementia? I quickly kid around about it, although deep inside the question still remains.
I have no fear asking her any questions, for I know that it will not upset her. Immediately after I ask her something it disappears from her memory. Her answer to this same question, several years ago was quite touchimg. Mom had said "I know that whatever has happened to me yesterday had to be nice, whether I can remember it or not".
Back to the present, I continue with," mom is all this scary to you"? Her quick reply is "no it's not scary because if you cannot remember something, you just don't remember it". With such wisdom mom was able to answer me so easily. She then started to reminisce about her own mother and growing up in Williamsburg and Coney Island.
"Mom do you remember your mother's name. "Of course, it was Pauline Schnitzer". "Mom, what's your name"? "Ruth Schnitzer", and "what was your father's name"? She simply says, "I cannot remember". With some surprise in my voice, I say his name was "Louie." My own father passed away seventeen years ago, yet I wonder if she knows his name. She has to, it's my dad and they were married for almost fifty years. She does not remember.
"Mom how many brother's or sister's do you have"? "I have both a brother and a sister". Wrong again. My mom had one younger brother who died from Alzheimer's five years ago. I decided to lighten up and move away from this conversation.
As we continue to speak I did not understand what she was trying to say, so I respond with "mom I do not understand what you just said". She must have felt a little frustrated for she answered, "if I was speaking French or Spanish then you could not understand me". "You are absolutely correct", as we both start to giggle like two teenage girls. I was happy because between some things she said and others, there seemed to be quite a few times that she was lucid. I could easily fantasize for several moments that she did not have Alzheimer's.
I have been back home for almost a week now and each day that I speak to my mom she seems to have some recollection that I was there. She cannot really express this, although she has questioned me everyday, to when I will be coming to visit . Now when I exit from her home, I can no longer have my real goodbyes, for in the past she has gotten quite upset. So when I leave I simply say, "mom I'll see you later".
Today my mom shared with a light, upbeat voice that when she woke up she was looking all over her home for me and could not find me. For a moment it made my heart sink. It saddened me that we lived so far apart, yet there was a sound of joy that came from her voice. I knew that she was feeling happy.
Later in the day I phoned my mom again, just to hear her sweet voice. Her caregiver Trudy said that after I hung up earlier , my mom had been going around her home once again calling my name. Her voice shouted, "Lisa, Lisa, are you here". Hearing this made my heart ache. Do I jump on a plane and run back to her ? It's been exactly one week since I was there. Of course I cannot do that. As I hung up the phone somehow it left me with a piece of my heart broken in two. For the rest of day I kept hearing Janis Joplin singing,"take a little piece of my heart".
I often wonder how this little lady who stands only 4 feet ten inches off the ground, can melt my heart each day in such a way that I cannot contain my love for her. It seems to overflow with abundance . Although I know that my mom cannot remember anything, and may not always be able to express herself and all her feelings, I am still left with some comfort. Deep in my heart I do feel that she is not suffering and is relatively happy. I truly believe that it is the families that are the ones who suffer the most. Either way Alzheimer's is a cruel disease that eventually takes ones life.
For me, because of my mom I have committed myself to spreading awareness about Alzheimer's and only hope that what I write can help other families find some comfort . I wish all of you much love and I hope you know that I truly care and do understand.
Fact-Every 68 Seconds Someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer's.