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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Scents That Smell Like Love (Precious Memories 5)

To describe my mother would be to write about 
a hurricane in its perfect power.  Or the climbing, falling colors of the rainbow. 

                             -Maya Angelou 


Growing up, I remember warm summer days of clothes flapping outside on the clothes line, drying in the breeze.

We had a dryer, but my mom insisted on hanging out the laundry because it would “smell like sunshine” after drying outside. I can still picture the green grass and hear those crisp sheets flapping. I can still remember what that wet laundry smelled like if you got close enough to it as it was drying. I remember what my bed smelled like, tucked in for the night, with that sunshine smell all around me. I still love clean bed sheets to this day, but have never been able to replicate that scent.

That scent to me, smelled like love.

My mom took the extra time and effort to make sure our beds were fresh every week. No wonder I sleep much better in a fresh, clean bed, though I am a bit obsessive now and often change my sheets twice a week! I just can’t get enough of that smell. It brings me comfort.

Sometimes I glance in the mirror, and for a brief moment, I see her looking back at me. My eyes aren’t as blue as hers, but I favor her in some ways. I inherited her voracious love of reading and books. I have her round cheeks and the same brown sunspot on my face. I have some of her curl in my hair. I also have some of her spunk and sass. I’m pretty sure I have a bit of her strong will and determination.

Later as Alzheimer’s progressed, I developed a “pit bull” instinct where my mom was concerned. I was compelled to become her protector, and her advocate. I stayed on top of her care and caregivers. I wasn’t disrespectful, but I was demanding. Some of them would give me the "stink-eye" when they saw me coming. Others would quietly whisper to me, "I would do the exact same thing for my mom!"

A shift took place.  I was now the parent, in many ways. I had precious cargo to look after and I expected the staff to take notice, if I had a concern.  I was never rude.  I thanked them profusely.  I made sure they knew I appreciated them.  I also made sure they knew my actions were rooted in love for a woman I had known much longer than they had the been given the opportunity.

I spent every spare moment I had, at the facility, making sure everything was what my mom would have wanted (to the best of my ability). We faced many unknowns in this journey.

I expected her to forget things but I wasn’t prepared for her to stop walking. That literally happened overnight. I had visited with her one afternoon and she was up, using a walker, getting around. She was slow, but still able to walk. I had just started to notice that she was staring at her feet as she walked, almost willing them to move. It took her full concentration to get one to go in front of the other. Her mind was still pretty good at this point and she would comment on her feet just wanting to stop. She recognized they weren’t cooperating with her.

Little did I know it was almost like a light bulb going out in her brain. The connections that needed to be made in order for her brain to signal her legs to move, was becoming dim. Literally, within 24 hours, the light bulb just went out, forever. Though her doctors tried physical therapy to get her walking again, that part of her brain was damaged by Alzheimer's. She was never able to safely walk again, even with a walker.

She was in a wheelchair for the last few months of her life. Though she didn’t like it, she didn’t allow it to stop her. She was soon able to wheel herself around, moving independently, just like she had always done. She would often refuse my offers to help push her chair, because she wanted to do it herself. I would walk beside her, cheering her on, telling her what a great job she was doing. Though it broke my heart to see her unable to walk anymore, I tried to focus on the things she could still do.

June is the official Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness month, however for those of us who have lived this or are living it, everyday is an awareness.  Our lives are taken over by words like dementia, aphasia, terminal restlessness, hospice, care one can tell you how long it will be or what will happen next.

My story is one of many.  In no way do I think my posts here deserve more attention than anyone else going through this very difficult experience.  I only hope to encourage, inspire, and possibly help someone else take a deep breath. 


 *The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother, who lost her battle with Alzheimer's. I share snippets of our story in these posts, and some things I learned along the way.

Precious Memories Part 1

Precious Memories Part 2

Precious Memories Part 3

Precious Memories Part 4

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