I participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s last Saturday at Lake Charles' Prien Lake Park.
These particular types of fundraisers are ubiquitous on any given Saturday morning. Associations for most any disease you can think of have a Walk to raise money for research, a cure, and to help those afflicted with the disease. I've often contributed to various such organizations, but I never attended an event.
Because now it is personal.
Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s around three years ago. I remember refusing to believe it. I was in denial. She’s too young, I thought. (She was 70 at the time.) Her memory isn't that bad. With me living in Louisiana and she in Pennsylvania, I didn't see her as often as my sisters and my stepdad Tom. So it was harder for me to recognize the subtle changes in her abilities and personality. This is me and Mom on her 70th birthday, July 2011.
By Christmas 2012, the effects of the disease were more obvious. But she was still “Mom.” I thank God for my sister Lisa, who courageously brought her to Lake Charles in May 2013 for my sons’ high school graduation. Her decline was undeniable at that point, and yet, as we sat in the bleachers of a gymnasium for Eric’s graduation ceremony, she was the first to spot him amidst that sea of blue caps and gowns. “There he is!” she exclaimed.
When I visited Mom and Tom that fall of 2013, nothing could have prepared me. My sisters and I had no idea how devastatingly bad things were getting at home. By the following January, 2014, she was in a nursing home.
How did all that happen so quickly?
I despise this disease. We all do. We have no idea in what ways this is hard for Mom. We can't imagine. It’s so hard for my sisters and Tom, who see her regularly. It’s hard for me, because I don’t. Not only do we grieve for our mother before she is even gone, but we fear for our own futures and those of our children.
Lisa wrote all our feelings so eloquently in an email today.
“I miss so many things about Mom every single day. I miss talking with her about everything, venting to her, weighing my options with her, talking through my concerns about the kids with her. I miss her every time we get together as a family because she should be there. And I get so angry; the thing that bothers me most I think, is that Alex and Emmett don’t get to grow up with her as the grandma she was before this disease, because she is the most loving grandma a child could ever have. That’s the hardest thing for me to accept.
“This never ending grieving is so hard for our minds to process. I get upset with myself when I refer to Mom in the past tense, because she’s not dead and I feel like I’m being disrespectful. Yet, the way she was such an integral part of our lives is in the past. And the grieving never ends because there’s really no closure. We still see her routinely, but this is a reminder every time of what we’ve lost. It’s like a wound that can’t heal. It’s open, and raw and still very painful.”
This is one of my favorite photos of Mom, taken in February 2010. Before any of us had any idea of what was coming.