My husband and I are in that stage of life when the care of our aging widowed mothers becomes a more pressing concern. Hubby’s mom lives nearby and he tries to visit with her daily. She’s 91 years of age and was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about a year ago. I mentioned her in a post last fall.
Almost every day when he comes home from visiting with her (he usually drives over to her assisted living facility after his workday ends), he provides a brief report of their conversation. She rarely remembers his name now, though she remembers he’s her son. When he offers hints about his name, sometimes she’s close, but the memory has difficulty filling in all the details.
She also remembers she’s a mother of other sons, but their names don’t come easily either. The other day, she told my husband there were people coming to “do drugs” outside her door and they would also be in her apartment for the same purpose. (I wondered if she might be hallucinating. She has before.) Eventually, she managed to say “carpets” and the story made more sense. The carpets were scheduled to be shampooed.
Then there’s my mom. Anticipating her 88th birthday this year, my mother doesn’t suffer with Alzheimer’s; her challenge is macular degeneration. (I’ve mentioned her in numerous posts on this blog. Remember Bobbie Pringle?)
A couple weeks ago, I had an early morning scare with her. It was before eight a.m. when my phone rang. I saw on the caller id that it was my mom’s number, so I answered saying, “What are you doing up at this hour?” (Truth be told, she’s generally up long before I am.)
No answer came from the other end. I kept the line open thinking maybe she’d set the phone down for some reason. After talking loudly into the speaker for several minutes with no response, I hung up and dialed her number only to get a busy signal.
That’s when I started worrying. What if she’d dialed me and before she could speak she’d suffered a heart attack or something? The thought of her lying on the floor unable to speak into her phone while attempting a call for help disturbed me immensely!
Unfortunately, I live six hours away from her! Eventually, I called my sister (who lives within a half hour of Mom). My sister drove over, determined everything was fine and texted me the news. Of course, I felt like an idiot, having bothered my sister, but know I would have felt much worse if something adverse had happened to her and nobody had checked to make sure she was okay.
[I know we’re not the only ones in the world concerned with aging parents. I know there are numerous people handling situations much worse than what my husband and I encounter with our mothers … and I would never minimize those really difficult situations of others.]
When we had a previous scare with my mom, I wrote this sonnet. It speaks (generally) to the bond of parent and child and the reversal of those roles as a parent ages. The nature of Alzheimer’s certainly qualifies it as a juggernaut. Aging is that by itself and the daily possibility of death is like an unwelcome companion lurking in a dark corner of the room.
Macular degeneration is no less a juggernaut, just a different kind of aging challenge. The ever-present risk from a fall … or trusting one’s sense of touch when taking medication (is this the correct pill!) … or setting a flammable object on a hot burner … when a person’s virtually blind, small things suddenly take on complexity.
My mom has aged remarkably well, keeping her inner vision and verve for life bubbling over even as her eyesight has diminished. I think she still has much to teach me in her final years (many more years, God willing) … including how to continue aging well and eventually how to die without regret.
I hope I’ll remain a conscientious and devoted learner.