Monday, September 14, 2009

A Sad Sunday

Yesterday I sat with my eighty-six year old mom and watched her as she struggled to recognize me. She has had Alzheimer's for over 16 years. She has not been able to talk, walk, or communicate for over ten of those years. I know when she looks at me there is a moment, where someplace dear to heart, she remembers something. She might give me a pretty smile or her ocean blue eyes might twinkle for an instant.

I look back upon her life and struggle to understand why she has ended up this way. With all the tragedy she has suffered through she was always happy, positive, and ready and able to love. I know that when my Dad and Mom married they both were unsure if they wanted kids. They had both been through so much pain, the thought of losing one of us would prove unbearable to them.

My Mom lost her 24 year old brother in WWII where he gallantly fought with the Royal Air Force. She was trapped with her twin sister and both her parents in Amsterdam. Her Dad was Jewish. She joined the Dutch Resistance and did what she could as a half Jew of German origins. The Germans had taken her citizenship away when the Nazi came into power. She was stateless and survived those terrifying years with grace and dignity and wonderful friends. She moved to LA and met my father in 1947. They married three months later. Their love affairs is what legends are made of. My Dad worshipped my Mom for both her strength and her capacity to love. She loved my Dad for all his wisdom, child like enthusiasm, and hurt she felt he carried every day of his life. He was a man to love. She was a woman to adore. And so they did.

Dad died when Mom was only fifty-five. She never married again. She had always made my sister and myself the center of her world. In fact, she made us her whole world.

And that's what got me thinking and kept me up most of last night.

Somewhere within me, I think my Mom got Alzheimer's because she never was able to create her own life. She would much rather be with my sister, Georgie or me than with her own friends. And she had few friends. Oh, many wanted to go to lunch with her or play tennis with her. But she never let them in. Only few people were able to break into Mom's life. Her life was dedicated to her family.

Then my sister died. It was the most horrible months of all our lives. My Mom always worried about Georgie, and then she died. It was like some awful premonition. I think that Mom already had the beginning of Alzheimer's before Georgie passed. But once we lost her, I would loose my Mom soon after.

Alzheimer's is a strange thing. You loose the one you love, but you can still touch them and feel their heart beating. But, they are gone to you. You can't quite mourn them, but you mourn them everyday. Today I mourn my mother, even though I left her yesterday and she looked bright and very much alive.

But here's the question that is haunting me. Did my Mother develop this hideous illness because she never developed her own life after my sister and I began to develop ours? Was her crime, that she loved us so much and so dearly that she had no room or desire to find a new life for herself? I see the writing on the wall for me. So easily I could become my mother. I have lost so much and know that my true happiness comes from my husband and children. When I let go, will nothing ever feel as right again?

My sister and I always encouraged my Mom to "get a life." We wanted her to make friends other than us and our friends. We needed her to. But she couldn't. We were all she had and all she had room for. And that was an unbearable weight for us to carry. I know that my children will feel that way if I don't allow them to create their own lives with the knowledge that Mom is fine and happy and doing great. It can't be empty words. I have to love my kids enough, to figure out a way to let them go as I continue on my own path of discovery and delight. I have to stay the eighteen year old girl I once was, eyes wide open, ready and excited about what the future holds.

Maybe with this attitude and enough Omega 3's, I can hide from Alzheimer's and let my children 'move on' in the good and honest knowledge that Mom is really fine.


  1. With tears in my eyes, I read your blog. Our friend, Laura sent it to me knowing that I always think of you. It makes me sad to think so many years have gone by without speaking to you... once my dear friend. Your reflection on the life of your mother, and the trials that she has overcome in her long life, show your respect and love for her. She is one of the great ones. I remember the love she shared with me, one of your friends.... that love was so generous. Her life was made bigger by yours... not overtaken by it. Give her a kiss for me.
    Terry, you have her best side.

  2. OH my, the best thing to come from my silly rants is to see your name and hear your words, with the hope that we can reconnect and reclaim a friendship that spanned time, coasts, and coming of age. I am touched. I think about you so much and will write you a long e-mail later and fill you in on my life. I know you loved Mom and she loved you. Tomi, she is at least at peace. Her blues eyes do sparkle and she does smile when she looks at me. She is not suffering. I suffer though, but Tom and the boys fill up the empty spaces where sorrow and despair could easily slip in.