Today would have been my mother’s one hundred and first birthday, yet when she died ten years ago she was like a child.
Alzheimer’s Disease had taken away fear, sorrow and pain, leaving her with a sense of wonderment and delight in the world around her. While this is not true in the case of every Alzheimer’s patient, it was for my mother the only saving grace in the development of a horrific disease.
My mother’s life was, for as long as I can remember, one filled with fear and anxiety, dread and apprehension.
As a young woman, I was often impatient with her propensity to cling to what I called the dark side of her emotions. It seemed to me that she held onto those feelings for some perverse reason that I could not and would not understand. When we argued about it, she would insist that she couldn’t help feeling the way that she did. At that point, arguing further only pushed her deeper into her fears. And yet today I know my mother was one of the bravest women that I have ever known.
Her name was Victoria and I cannot think of a more appropriate name. She was born into poverty and ignorance, but she was determined to build a better life. Although she had few resources at her disposal, my mother had determination and she was willing to work long hours under difficult circumstances. Mom even endured criticism and accusations for thinking she was “better than others” and she was ridiculed for trying so hard; nevertheless, she succeeded.
When Mom was younger, she never talked about her past, but at the end of life she met an opponent that gave her no choice. The first things Alzheimer’s took were her short-term memories, leaving only the distant past to comfort her.
From time to time she held my hand when she talked; but she was not really with me. My mother did not even know who I was. She was back ‘home’, as she called it and I often felt like a traveler in time being introduced to her past.
People told me not to believe what I heard, that the reliving of her past was some elaborate fiction her dying mind had created. However, I have managed to corroborate a great deal. I have learned about her persistence and her determination to provide her children with a quality of life she had not known as a child. In addition, my mother was victorious over the kind of fear that paralyses most people. It is ironic that Alzheimer’s, the disease that robbed her of everything, including her life, could not take her courage. It did, however, expose great depths of strength and power I never suspected were hers.
Caring for my mother was the most difficult thing I have ever done. Had it not been for the help of my local support group, I might not have been able to endure, but then I would not have received the final gift—that of knowing my mother, not as her child, but as her admirer.
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