Alive in Memory

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

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4 July 2012, Southfield Michigan.

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

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On a family reunion cruise to Bermuda, July 2013.

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.

 

* * *

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.

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              Lois Tabor Ice                       14 June 1921-              29 March 2015

 

 

 

7 Replies to “Alive in Memory”

  1. Such a heart wrenching remembrance. I guess I have to admit that as hard as it was to lose my mom at the too young age of 53, and my dad at 73, I am relieved that I didn’t have to experience the ravages of this horrible disease. My dad’s worse fear was losing his mental faculties. Both parents were intellectuals so I understand this share this fear. I’m sure you felt so helpless but I’m not sure that you could have done much more than you did given the fact that you didn’t live nearby.

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  2. Your piece is very moving, Pam. And I’m sure it must resonate deeply for the many like you who lose a parent by degrees. Lovely writing.

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  3. Nice story about our mother. Your sisters noticed the changes but we couldn’t’ do anything about it except move her to Detroit. The neurologist in Las Vegas diagnosed dementia (probable Alzheimer’s) but said he couldn’t know for sure it was Alzheimer’s until her death. She did not have an autopsy so we still are not sure about Alzheimer’s.

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  4. What a beautiful woman (those cheek bones!) and what personality! Thank you for this remembrance of someone so special to all of us who knew her, even as I did just a little. Our parents, our own aging, our children and how they know us – a poignant and somewhat mysterious process. You’ve given me something to reflect upon – as always. Thanks, Pamela.

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  5. Hi, Pam. This is Gwen S. Our friend Velvora turned me onto your blog and I am glad she did because we share a similar experience having a mother who suffers with Alzheimer’s . Looking back, we all wonder when did the disease start, could or should I, or my siblings, have done something sooner or recognized what was happening? That is all in the past, and all we can do is what we can and try not to let the struggle of Alzheimer’s taint our viewpoint. Thank you to your sister who cared for your mother in Michigan for six years. My husband and I are in the sixth year of caring for my mother in our home and it is a hard, sad, comical, and enlightening journey. Blessings to you and your family and deepest sympathy for your loss.

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    1. Gwen, thank you so much for your kind, thoughtful words. I look forward to seeing you for the next few weeks ( and beyond) as we explore Beloved at the Dallas Institute for the Humanities.

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    2. Thanks for your comment. Our Elder sister, Anne-Mare’, made a lot of sacrifices to house and care for our mother for all those years. I want to publicly acknowledge that and honor her for that. At the time, Anne-Mare’ was facing her own health issues and continues to do so without complaint. Taking care of our mother alone was an extremely challenging task that I could not have done. So, I want to publicly thank Anne-Mare’ for her courage, financial support, and patience in caring for my mother on a daily basis all those years. From Patricia

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