The caregivers actually have an advantage. They don’t remember Grace before Alzheimer’s started stealing her from us.
I can still hear her laugh. My dad could bring out this laugh that starting in her toes and bubbled up for all of us to hear. She was always about two minutes behind every joke which only made it funnier. But she was patient and good natured; still able to enjoy the rapid fire humor that bounced around my childhood home.
I remember her caring for me. I remember her listening to me as I rattled on and on about my day, school, activities, and later my kids, my divorce. Blindly, she stayed on my side and built me up with kind words of encouragement. She told me I was smart, pretty and a good mother (totally unbiased, of course).
When I was pregnant, she was there. When I was sick, she was there. But she knew when to leave, too. She knew how to be in my daughters’ lives without being overbearing. She knew that if they didn’t call it was because they were busy being teenagers; not because they forgot her. She was confident in their love, in my love, in her husband’s love.
She had her girlfriends. Any week was filled with lunches and outings. If they weren’t available, she’d go out alone to lunch or a movie. One local restaurant can hardly believe that she isn’t coming back anymore… that she can’t remember what to order or how to order… that she can’t remember how she’ll get home.
She needs constant reassurance, afraid that she is unloved, forgotten…afraid that she is not cared for. Her friends used to call, but her distance and confusion made it hard for them to relate. Where was the old Grace? Who is this person?
Like a small child, she needs care. She needs to be reminded that she is loved and valued. Her fears haunt her, but they go unarticulated.
She can’t hear me; she can’t understand me. Often I have to repeat several times, but I have to keep it simple. Sometimes I have to write it down.
Most of all, I miss her smile, I miss her laugh.