My heart hurts—I just got off the phone with my sweet, darling mom. I have the same experience every week—I call her because I want to hear her voice, and though her voice starts out strong, by the end of our (very short) call, it is a scared, sad, tearful voice.
I wonder what is happening inside her head and heart. I have some idea…
I think that although mom knows she is talking to me, her older daughter—she loses her grounding almost as soon as we start our conversation. She seems to struggle to make sense of why she is talking to me on the phone, why she hasn’t seen me in soooo long (when it may have been the day before), why she can’t seem to place where she is, or why she’s there.
Mom will turn 83 this November. And for the past five years she has been losing her cognitive abilities. Mom has Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia, as did her mother and older sister.
And while I still have mom…I am also losing her—day-by-day, minute-by-minute, second-by-second. It’s heartbreaking for both of us.
I love this woman with all of my heart and soul. For more than fifty years she has been there for me every single step of the way. This is my beautiful, smart mom with a Master’s Degree, who was a New York City schoolteacher for thirty years. The woman who was liberated way before her time, and didn’t hang out much in the kitchen because she had more “interesting” ways she wanted to spend her time.
This is the woman who taught me to be strong and independent by example—and to always stand up for what I believe to be right and true.
This is the woman who has been an amazing wife to my dad for fifty-seven years, mother to my sister and me, and grandma to her five grandkids.
But now she has lost her footing. When we speak, although she knows the love we have for each other is fierce, she’s not always sure exactly why or how we are connected. When she comes to my house, she sometimes asks if she has ever been there before (hundreds of times)!
And so here I sit trying to make sense of the loss of my mom—for though she may be sitting in front of me, or on the other end of the phone line, she is lost, I am lost, and the world we once knew, is lost.
And though it’s not a physical death, it is a death of the world that was—the world that I have known for more than fifty years.