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Sunday, October 23, 2016

And This Is Why I Write - Precious Memories 13

 Precious memories, how they linger
How they ever flood my soul
In the stillness of the midnight
Precious sacred scenes unfold
As I travel on life's pathway
Know not what the years may hold
As I ponder, hope grows fonder
Precious memories flood my soul
                                                      Hymn written by J.B.F. Wright

My mom loved to read. Growing up, I remember seeing books in various places all over the house. Sometimes mom would have several books going at once.

She used whatever she had as a bookmark. An envelope from an old bill, a torn out magazine page, sometimes a pencil if she was desperate. She devoured books by the stacks. We read all of the time.  In fact, I cannot remember not being able to read.

My mom used to tell me a story about when I was a baby. She would lay me down on the newspaper so I could look at the words. She did this on a regular basis, and also gave me books to look at and to hold. She read aloud to me, and books were as much a part of my life as food, water, or air. They were with me and around me constantly.

My family members often told me the story of how one day when I was about 3, my mom overheard me reading out loud, and she thought I was “pretending” to read. Turns out, I really WAS reading and she was never quite sure how I learned. There was never an intentional reading class or lesson given by my mom. I didn't learn "phonics." I have no idea how it happened.  I inherited her voracious love of books and so much more.

It saddened me when my mom lost the ability to read due to Alzheimer’s. She lost one of her great loves and there was nothing I could do to stop it. People with this disease lose various communication abilities, at different stages. I wasn’t even aware that there were “stages”, until I lived out my own personal experience with this disease.

I did notice that prior to being officially diagnosed, my mom seemed to have trouble following conversations. Actually it was me that I suspected of having the issues! I would feel so confused, sometimes trying to talk to her. I mentioned some of this previously in my Storm Warning post.

She would wander from topic to topic and take rabbit trails. She would become irritated with me, if I wondered what we were talking about. In her mind it was plain as day!  She began telling me strange things, but would sound absolutely convincing as she relayed these "incidents."

For example, she would blame the phone company for messing up the line when I would find her phone unplugged from the jack on the wall, or off the hook.  Good thing I lived close when she was in her own home.  I cannot recall how many times I raced over there, thinking the worst, when we'd have an hour or more of a "busy signal" and couldn't reach her.

When she began using strange words to fill in what she couldn’t remember, that really raised a red flag with me. For example, “There was a rainfall in bed.”  Alzheimer’s translation?  "I took a shower before bed last night."

I learned quickly to play the game, fill in the blanks, and become very good at guessing. I often joke with my husband now that I should go on the $25,000 Pyramid game show, because I am so quick to fill in the blanks and figure out what someone is talking about.

You learn to cope with this illness. You have to.

It wasn’t until after my mom was diagnosed officially that I noticed she was losing interest in books, magazines, word puzzles and the like. She used to faithfully work the crossword puzzle in her daily newspaper when I was at home. She loved word searches and we’d have all kinds of them around. I tried using large print materials to help her, in case she was having issues seeing the print.  I would later learn that vision changes are another factor with dementia patients.

Slowly, over the course of time she just stopped picking up her books. She had her Bible close by, but eventually stopped picking that up as well. It broke my heart.

This was a woman who loved Scrabble, and board games. We played UNO and card games, Chinese checkers, and regular checkers. She was just as active mentally as she was physically and yet, this awful disease was not deterred by her busy brain.  Hoping to keep her engaged mentally, I would read out loud to her when she had an interest.

Sometimes she just wanted it dim and quiet, and I tried to respect that. I would read devotions to her, especially about heaven as the end drew near. She seemed peaceful as I read, intensely watching me with her eyes. I believe her spirit picked up, what her brain could not process.

In honor of her, I could not think of a better way to keep her memory alive, than with words on a page.  And this is why I write. 

Not because I am an aspiring author, or think that I write well.

I write for her, and so I won’t forget.  I write with the hope that maybe someone else will be informed, encouraged, and strengthened if they are facing this too. Although Alzheimer’s played a role in my mom’s life, it wasn’t how I define her.   And it won’t be how I choose to remember her.   She was so much more.

But having walked this painful road, she would have hoped that her personal struggle and journey, might be able to help someone else.  She was a giver that way, always wanting to lighten the load of another.  Sharing her story and what we've walked through, is my way of just sitting next to you and holding your hand as you walk this path too.

I know some of what you face, and how lonely the grief process can be.

I choose to remember the wonderful (precious) memories she left me with.   I remember, and so I write.

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

You can start reading our story from the beginning here: Precious Memories 1 

You can read my last Precious Memories post here:
A Time To Weep - Precious Memories 12

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