My Mother My Child: A Daughter’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s Disease. Part 2

This is part 2 of a 3-part story

During the first few months we lived together, Mom regularly asked me if it was time to go back to her real home where she lived for 31 years devotedly taking care of another family’s domestic needs. After a while she stopped asking. Six months passed and then a year. I had long since abandoned my school plans and began my career in the tax and accounting field. The hours were long and the work all-consuming. Mom would stay in the apartment most ofthe time, but learned how to walk to the shopping center and back again. During warm weather she would bring her knitting and sit on a bench all day. Mom would often say how happy she was to be with her daughter. We went often to the beach. Mom so loved the ocean. I took her grocery shopping, to the hairdresser, to Philharmonic hall. it was a wonderful year for me, too. Shewas taking care of me, too. She washed my clothes, prepared meals for me, sewed, sang and told stories… the same stories over and over again about how adorable I was as a baby. She told how she would pick me up and hold me for hours wondering if there ever was a more beautiful child. There were aspects of my life I wanted to know about but she couldn’t remember. Those memories were forever swallowed up by her disease.

Life went smoothly along. Mom was fairly independent. I’d go to work and she would go off to the shopping center, watching the people go by, and knitting beautiful, colorful blankets day after day after day. I convinced myself that there had been a mistake in her diagnosis. My mother did not have Alzheimer’s Disease. There was nothing wrong with her. she was simply a lovely, innocent little lady who passed her days in the sunshine while waiting for her daughter to come home. She would call me at the office every day at 2:00. She would ask the receptionist in her singing Swedish accent: “Can I please speak to Viveca (Vee Vee Ca)”. And that’s the way it went every day.

One day she did not call. When I called the house, there was no answer so I ran out of the office and drove to the shopping center. Not finding her, I drove around the neighborhood thinking the worst. Finally I called the police. What seemed like an hour later, a policeman escorted a terrified little mom to the door. He found her walking along the middle of the parkway. She had forgotten her way home. Poor Mom! I held her in my arms while she sobbed and sobbed. I held her a longtime, feeling deeply in my bones that this was just the beginning.

After that episode Mom decided that she didn’t want to go for those walks anymore. It was too cold, and besides, her knitting was becoming too heavy. Of course.

During those first two years life was me and Mom, our cat and my job. I absorbed myself totally in work and when I wasn’t in the office, I was home studying tax law. I tried to arrange for housekeepers to come but Mom wouldn’t let them in. She did not want any strangers in the house. She ws content to sit alone knitting her blankets and watching TV. She continued to call me at 2:00. As the weeks went by, she would often forget to call and eventually she stopped calling at all.

Sometimes I would come home from work and Mom would be quite cross. She’d tell me there were men in the house bothering her. When we talked more about it, I realized that she was referring to characters on TV. It was tax time and a voice would often come on television wagging a finger directly at my mother. It was a public announcment about the earned income credit. As he wagged and pointed he said “The IRS might owe you money!” Mom heard, “I want your money.” She was red-faced and angry yelling at him, shaking her finger up close to the tv face “You will not get one cent of my money. Not one cent!”

There were some mornings when Mom would beg me not to leave. she would be on her hands and knees, grabbing my legs sobbing and pleading. During those episodes I would sit with her until she calmed down. I held her hand and tried to soothe her. I looked into daycare, but they were not accepting disoriented people.

One warm and sunny spring day, mom suddenly decided she would go for walks again. I made the trip with her several times to make sure she knew the way, and she remembered perfectly! I battled with myself as to the wisdom of letting her go. I gave her a special bracelet with our address and my work number and a watch with an alarm to remind her to call me. My worries for her safety were outweighed by her need for this freedom. I let her go.

We lived in New York together for four years. Mom never got lost again. she had rosy, healthy cheeks and made several beautiful blankets, each simpler in pattern than its predecessor. She was holding on. Over time, she knit less and less. Eventually the knitting stopped.

To be continued.

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