My mom was my best friend. There was nothing I couldn’t tell her and she was always there for me. Her joyful, “Hello” every time I called, regardless of whether I had just spoken to her five minutes ago or not, always felt like a huge hug.
I loved that she was smart. Not educated smart, although she did go to college, but practical and an excellent problem solver. But most of all, I knew, every day of my life, she loved me; believed in me and honestly thought I could do anything.
I first realized something wasn’t quite right when my girls were small. She seemed a little distant and depressed. I figured it was just some nagging health problems that were bringing her down. But one day she became uncharacteristically angry with one of my daughters for no particular reason. I was so hurt and confused. How could my mom, always a tower of patience and understanding, do such a thing? I remember consoling my daughter with some kind of excuse about Grandma being tired that neither of us believed.
Just a few short years later, she was more a stranger who sometimes resembled my mom than anything else. Alzheimer’s had claimed another victim.
The death of my father, two years before, necessitated her being moved into a full care facility where she continued her slow fade until the day she silently finished her breakfast and laid her head down for the last time.
My father had cared for her until a sudden stroke swept him away. He talked to me almost daily, clearly the toll on him devastating. Hardest of all was the daily fight he endured trying to coax his gentle minister’s wife to do simple things like eat or dress amidst her shocking tirades of profanity.
Even though I didn’t live close, I told myself I was supporting him by being an ear and calling him every day. But that was often my only contribution. I am not proud of my efforts. The truth is, the woman who used to be my mother repelled me. She made me so uncomfortable; I all but stopped trying to reach out to her. And even at the end, when I was the only person she seemed to recognize, I was still at a loss; unable to reach out to her.
Today I ask myself so many questions. “Why didn’t I call her every day?” “Why didn’t I visit her more?” “When I did, why didn’t I hold her in my arms and assure her I would love her always?” “What kind of daughter shy’s away from her own mother?” “What was WRONG with me?”
The reality of the guilt I feel is huge. She was always there for me and I failed her. There is no resolution. There is nothing I can do. I regret, with everything I am, not being able to go back and do everything over again. This regret, this saddest gift of Alzheimer’s, is something I will carry with me always.
Laura is a lover of reading, writing, sparkly things and whatever purrs, barks or flies. Former helicopter mom, co-dependent and enabler, Laura is now addicted to walking, her family and her iWatch. A teacher by day and writer by night, she is clearly the one learning the most and plan to keep it up until she gets it right. Choosing joy one day at a time and sharing her journey so others can see why it might not be found if we don’t look for it.