looking back, our story


          The last thing I ever gave a thought to writing was a page about mom and I. You see, that was a very painful time in our lives...and who, I ask you, would be anxious to go back and relive them again?

          But, the more I wrote, the more I shared with you, the more I began to understand that THAT was exactly what I had to do. You see, experiences have a way of changing your perspective, and with it, the realization that you must come full circle.

          I guess what I am trying to say to is that....were it not for her...were it not for this disease that is taking her...this website would never have been made. This 'creation' done because of her, in honor of her....and to leave out 'those painful memories', would be leaving out the very essence of why this is here...

 is our story....

          Looking Back...

          To this day, I guess the one question I cannot answer is "When did your mother develop Alzheimer's?" To be honest...I have no idea. You see, this disease isn't the type to announce itself with fanfares and blowing trumpets. A person doesn't just wake up one morning, look into a mirror and say; "Oh gosh, I've seemed to have developed that forgetfulness disease".

          I suppose if I thought back far enough, I would eventually remember the small inconsistencies that signaled the development. But that was well over 10 years ago.

          Ten years...

          Ten years of watching my mother slip away from me. Ten years of seeing this disease take first her memories, then her abilities and finally her very essence. To be honest, there is nothing left of the woman she used to be. And yet, when she was first diagnosed, to look at her, it was hard to believe there was anything wrong. She didn't look sick....or even act sick. If anything, it seemed she had just picked up some annoying little habits. The 15 phone calls that were always about the same thing. The looks of distraction, the pauses in sentences, the constant having to repeat myself in whatever conversation we were having at the time. It was like she was losing track of whatever she was doing...whatever she was saying...but she always managed to cover it.


          In The Gloaming

          By 1988 though, my mothers descent into Alzheimer's had become very obvious. It was now apparent that she was reaching the gloaming of her life. Do you know what the gloaming is? It's those few short seconds that hover between sunset and total darkness when everything is softly focused, sort of misty and dimly lit...and that's what mom had reached.

          You see, there is no color at that time of day. With the sun setting, the vibrancy is drawn out and washed away. And that was what was happening to mom. The memory lapses were ever increasing and her moments of confusion came for longer periods of time.

          Our conversations were now riddled with gaping holes and she would become moody and withdrawn. I know there must have been many days she struggled to understand what was happening to her...but neither one of us possessed the answer. It was as if we were caught in an invisible vortex and our world had become a mass of nothing but contradictions.

          Of course, there were also the days when everything seemed quite normal. When she was my 'good old mom' and no major irrationalities marred the perfect surface. Those are what I now call our 'honeymoon' days and I have grown to appreciate the simple pleasure we shared during those times.

          But even those were slipping away....

          As the time moved slowly on, more and more symptoms began to appear. We were now entering her second year after diagnosis, and the changes in her personality had become phenomenal. Many days her moodiness was replaced by a odd sense of restlessness and our easy conversations came slowly to an end.

          You see, I grew up in a house that was always filled with laughter, but now it was replaced by a silence that wouldn't end. She was moving away from me...distancing herself, and there wasn't one thing I could do to stop it.

          Looking back though, I think the most troubling thing for me was the changes I was seeing in her eyes. It was like watching the light being slowly drained out of her. The spontaneity that had been so much a part of her character was now dissipating and she was becoming a shadow of her former self.

          You see, the days now, were beginning to be filled with constant blunders and mistakes. And there was an uncertainty about her I had never seen before. I was finding myself directing her in just about everything she did. And the simplest things were becoming almost insurmountable.

          But there does come a time in this disease that is known as the 'turning point'. That time came when she began to wander. Up until then I had made allowances for the things she had done. But there does come a time when allowances have to stop and common sense has to take over. And that day came...when I watched her walk out on to the highway.

          You see I realized then, that all of the decisions I had made, had been ruled by my heart and not my head. But on that day, I knew to the depths of my soul, that if something didn't mother was going to die.


          The Decision

          To say I made the decision for nursing home care lightly, would be a lie. In fact, it was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. But given the choice between a nursing home and the life of your mother...which would you choose? And so the process began.

          To be honest, unlike most people, my choice of "where" was made very easily. You see, my mother had been born in a small town a short distance from here and they had just opened up a new facility. In other words, I would be taking my mother back home.

          Did I tell her? No. But there were two reasons for that. First, my mother was now spending a great deal of time alone. Not by my choice, but by hers. I knew she was lonely, but she wasn't comfortable having me around anymore. You see by then, my mother had developed the paranoid symptoms, so she was constantly suspicious of everyone. And secondly, to be honest again, my mother's short term memory was completely gone so it would have been impossible for her to understand what was about to happen.

          So...I kept it simple. I just told her I had found her a lovely new apartment in a complex where lots of other people lived. And yes...she accepted that....and the move became reality.

          Of course it wasn't easy...easy for me that is. Mom on the other hand couldn't have been happier. She thrived in her new place and it wasn't long before she became an integral part of it.

          But as for myself, well...that was an entirely different story. You see, I was the only one in this relationship of two, who KNEW it would never be the same again. I had gone from being a daughter to being my mother's mother, then back to being a daughter again. And that's hard to adjust to.

          Maybe she didn't realize our relationship would never be the same again...but I did, and so I grieved. Maybe not so much for her and I, but certainly for all the things we would miss. And yes, I grieved for loss of my best friend as well.

          To this day, there is still a part of me that wishes she had hated it there. But she didn' fact she bloomed. And it wasn't long before I came to realize it was the best decision I had ever made for her.

          I am content that I chose well and that my mothers remaining days are as happy as they can make them. In fact, it is their devotion to her that keeps her with me. And were it not for them, I would have missed some of the most precious moments of my life.

          I don't know when God will take mom. As I said, there is very little left of her now. She is a victim of this disease and there is nothing that can stop it. Not love, not will, not strength.

          And yes it can devastate everything it touches...but one thing. And that is love. The love between....a mother and a daughter....

          moms legacy

          She registers little, if any, at all
          To those who would visit or take time to call
          Her appearance is masklike - Her responses few
          But I know she loves me - And I love her too.
          People might wonder just why I believe
          My mother's still 'in there', because they don't see
          The life of her spirit, encased in that shell
          She's moving towards Heaven, where God's angels dwell.
          I know in my heart that my mother's aware
          When I come around her - I know she's 'in there'
          For, just one moment - A miracle, grand
          I told her I loved her - And she squeezed my hand!
          That moment spoke lifetimes that words could not say
          It brought back good memories of much brighter days --
          Although it was fleeting - Yet ever so real
          My mother is 'in there' - She knows, and she feels!
          When her shell is discarded, and she can go free
          I know she'll remember - And always love me -
          For treasures that matter are those you can't see
          This is the value of Mom's Legacy.......
          Dorothy Womack (for you, Marsha)
          © 1/23/98

          Please DO NOT take this poem!!

          To Caregiving Directory
          To A Daughters Love & Mom and Me