Mother The Now
This is a happy story, though don’t be surprised or disappointed if it brings a tear or two to your eyes. It concerns my 88-year-old mother, who lives in a nursing home in Dallas and who’s now among the most present people I’ve ever known. She also happens to have Alzheimer’s Disease; note the word have, rather than suffers from.
Mom enjoys the moment, even if it’s a visit from her son who she carried in her womb for nine months, lived with for 18 years, and bragged about for 25 more, but now doesn’t know from Adam. She thinks I’m either her brother, who just died at 91 (I must have aged poorly); her husband (a corpse for 10 years); or her father (who’d be 118 if he wasn’t dead for 25 years). And I thought I was a pretty lively guy.
During my most recent visit, she was kissing and hugging a stuffed animal as if it were a new-born grandchild. I asked Mom if it was her daughter. When your mother has Alzheimer’s, it’s important to go with her in whatever reality she happens to inhabit at the moment. She said yes, the “doll” was her daughter. So we played as if “she” were just that. Mom laughed excitedly and regularly, and asked at least a dozen times, “We’re having a wonderful time, aren’t we?” She was right; we were. I hadn’t laughed like that with my mother since I played with stuffed animals. It was one of the most enjoyable times I remember ever spending with my mother. Yet, if any medical professional were there to judge her competence, it wouldn’t take more than a minute to determine she was incompetent. And certainly insane by our standards as well. It takes some adjustment in your own being to know that your mother is what we used to call mad.
Unlike most of us who are anything but mad, Mom has no past and no future: she resides in an eternal present and, like an innocent child, enjoys it immensely. Clearly, she enjoys it more than any adult I know, with the exception of some gurus I have been privileged enough to have spent some time around. Mom is a child in an 88-year-old wheelchair-bound body. And like a baby, she needs her diapers. It’s ironic how life comes full cycle, as Shakespeare so eloquently described in his seven stages of man speech.
While my heart breaks to see what’s become of the mind of the woman who brought me into the world and brought me up to join it, I appreciate that she often has a merry old time, blithely unaware of her condition. If the dark cloud of Alzheimer’s has a silver lining—as I believe it does--it’s that the greatest suffering takes place among those close to the patient, far more than the patient suffers herself. It’s also that the “patient” has much to teach us. Here are just some of the things that my mother, “the patient,” taught me during my most recent visit:
1. Enjoy the present because that’s all that you have.
2. It doesn’t matter what time it is, because time doesn’t exist.
3. You don’t have to know who people are, or what they do for a living, to have a thoroughly good time with them.
4. Stuffed animals make great playmates and, if necessary, companions or family members.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Cary Bayer is a Life Coach who conducts a national private practice in the mountains of New York State (845-679-5526) and by the ocean in south Florida (954-788-3380). He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can visit him at his web site at www.carybayer.com