Happy Birthday, Mom

I haven’t written a blog post in a long time. I’ve been busy — studying, reading, planning lessons, grading papers, teaching, living my life. I still visit my mom every week, or almost every week. I still sit with her and hug her. She still doesn’t want me to leave.

When I visited her a few weeks ago, she was like she generally is these days. Her head was slumped on her shoulders when I arrived, and her eyes were closed. Her hair, long since gone white, was uncombed. She was breathing the regular, measured breaths of someone in a deep sleep. And she was sitting in the lounge, on a chair in front of the TV, surrounded by other residents.

I caressed her hair and kissed her to wake her up. She was groggy, and her first words sounded like they might be left over from her dream, because they didn’t really make sense. At least not to me.

There was a time, not too long ago, when my mom cared about her appearance. She combed her hair and put on lipstick. She had clothing preferences, certain colors she liked to wear. The way a fabric fell on her mattered to her. It’s strange to recall this, because for so many years, I listened to her put herself down. She thought she was ugly, and she said it. But she took care of herself. She may or may not have really thought she was ugly, but she was at least well-groomed. Not anymore.

I woke her and coaxed her out of her chair, and as she leaned on her walker, I saw how her clothing hung on her. I’ve been noticing this a lot lately. Her clothes often don’t match or even really fit her. If I take a quick look at the name tag on the garment, I sometimes notice it reads someone else’s name. Sometimes she is wearing a nightgown for a shirt, and she doesn’t have a bra on. And under her pants I can see the bulging of a diaper.

My mom turns 91 today, and with all that I have going on in my life, I won’t get to visit her. We won’t have cake, and she won’t open a present. This will have to wait until the weekend, but it doesn’t matter, not to her. She doesn’t know it’s her birthday. She doesn’t know what a birthday is.

But she’s not doing so badly. She still gets around on her own two feet. She still eats without much assistance. She still looks for love and comfort where she can find it. She laid her head on another patient’s shoulder, a man’s shoulder. She seems to know, instinctively, that with another human being, she can find some warmth.

And she still sometimes has flashes of reality. The last time I visited her, from the moment I arrived, she was anticipating my departure and feeling sad about it. She cried on seeing me, knowing she would have to say goodbye. She hasn’t demonstrated that kind of awareness in a while. It made me sad and happy at the same time.

I don’t have hope for my mom, at least not in the conventional sense. She is in her last moments, and life is draining out of her. And I have less to say about it, which is another reason I am not writing often. There is nothing new to report, and certainly less that is hopeful. Just as Alzheimer’s and old age are turning my mom into an empty shell, they are also making me quiet, stealing my will if not my voice. But like my mom, I still have some moments.

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About daughter3

My mom has Alzheimer's disease. She's 91 and lives in a nursing home. She has three daughters. I'm her youngest.
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7 Responses to Happy Birthday, Mom

  1. Barbara Glickstein says:

    Happy Birthday to your Mother. We share having Mom’s with advancing dementia and I appreciate your words. Glad you share moments and memories.

  2. Gail Saks says:

    Happy birthday to Maryann, whenever you celebrate it. You are amazing and continue to show your strength. I hope the teaching is going well. The first few years are difficult, but you are much stronger then you know or have ever given yourself credit for. I truly admire you

    • daughter3 says:

      Thanks so much, Mrs. Saks. I really appreciate your support. Life provides so many opportunities to grow stronger, and I guess I’m glad I’m taking advantage of them!

  3. curvyroads says:

    Hugs to you, and I totally understand that you are writing about your Mom less often. My Mom went through the same stages, and it is sad, heartbreaking, and difficult to describe. Sending you positive thoughts and strength through this sad time.

  4. I happened to come upon your post and it spoke to me. My mother is 76 and diagnosed about 3 years ago, but we’re guessing she’s had it about 5 at least. You speak so quietly yet strong. I look for guidance at times although I feel I can handle it even though it crashes down on me every once in a while. Posting is very personal and therapeutic and I thank you for sharing. Your words provide comfort even though they are difficult. Be good to you and much love and a happy birthday to your mom.

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