Nine years ago, in the fall of 2009, I realized that I was losing my mother. That is when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. We, my sisters and I, actually had begun losing her a few years before that. We just did not realize or understand what was happening.
Mother’s inability to find her way around the ship during
a family cruise in 2007 had alarmed me, but neither of my sisters were concerned. When she was completely unable to find her way around the hotel during a conference we were attending, I insisted on getting her assessed by a neurologist. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Despite the diagnosis, Mother did not believe it, and she seemed in command of her environment. So she continued living on her own until we got a call from her hometown police. She had called 9-1-1 to report a robbery in progress, but when the police arrived, all was well and there was no evidence of a break-in. The police officer who called me explained that this was not the first false alarm Mother had reported; it had happened a number of times before we were called.
Mother lived in Nevada; my sisters and I live in Michigan, Mississippi, and Texas. We definitely did not want the police to involve Adult Services. So, with no prior planning or knowledge of what the next steps would be, my sisters hustled her out of Las Vegas to my sister’s home in Michigan which is where Mother had said she wanted to go if she could no longer live on her own; but she did not remember that, and she did not want to leave. Heart-breaking as it was, we had to remove her; and against her will, she went to live in Michigan with my sister, a transition that was not easy for either of them.
I felt a lot of guilt about my mother’s plight. As with any disease, early detection is critical. However, in part because we were so far away, it took us a while to realize that Mother was slipping away. By the time we understood that we were losing her, she was probably already half way through the seven stages of Alzheimer’s. And though I know it is not my fault that she developed the disease, I can’t help thinking I should have noticed earlier, that I somehow should have known she was deteriorating and done something; what, I don’t know.
Over the six years she lived in Michigan, Mother forgot our birthdates, her wedding date, friends she had known for decades, and where her daughters lived. She no longer remembered the rules of bridge, a game she had mastered and enjoyed playing for over sixty years. Fortunately, she still remembered and loved all three of her
daughters, her son-in-law, her one remaining brother, and her deceased husband. What I learned to do until she was actually gone – all I could do – was adjust to and love the mother I still had – the mother we lost a little more day by day, week by week, and month by month – while cherishing the strong, capable, resourceful, brave, nurturing, charming, and often amusing woman she had been for most of her life and mine.
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Lois Tabor Ice died 29 March 2015 at the age of 93, and though I am grateful for her longevity, I miss her terribly; I missed her even while she was still here, so in essence I lost her twice.
Now I keep Mother alive in my memory by thinking of her daily and talking about her with my sisters, relatives, and friends, sometimes with sadness but more often with affection and laughter. And always with love.