Monday, September 26, 2005

Overtime and Alzheimer’s

We are working a lot of overtime right now.

Working overtime doesn’t bother me. I like the extra money in my paycheck and I like the work I do. Sometimes I can even get almost double my normal production out in a single day… and only work 1 extra hour. It always surprises me how much I can accomplish when there aren’t any interruptions.

Alzheimer’s is an interruption of accomplishment.

My sweet mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s… and it has interrupted so much.

She used to be an intelligent woman. Politically savvy, able to converse on many subjects, loving and humorous.

Now, she is a difficult mix of petulant child, sweet little girl and very confused adult.

I said to someone the other day that I miss her. The person told me to go over to the nursing home and see her.

Not that simple. When I say that I miss her, it means I miss who she used to be in her vibrancy and intelligence. I miss having a real conversation with her.

I miss her knowing who I am.

Sometime last year, her mind lost me and who I am in relationship to her. When I visit her, she is always sweet to me, but it is obvious she doesn’t know me. I wonder sometimes who she thinks I am.

My mother-in-law’s 78th birthday is Friday. We will go as a family to have a celebration together at the nursing home. We’ll take her some special chocolates and a sweatshirt on which I will embroider a Siamese cat… her two favorite things in life… chocolate and Siamese cats. Thankfully two things which she can still identify.

It won’t be an easy birthday celebration. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like we should celebrate her birthdays.

But every year she surprises us and announces that her birthday is coming. She’s in there somewhere… and peeks out when she can. We cherish the times that she is more lucid and aware.

So we will celebrate who she is now… and who she was… and hope she peeks out on Friday.

1 comment:

Eleanor said...

Cheri - What a beautiful tribute to your MIL. I so admire your ability to meet her where she is, and to recognize that she is still in there in some pure form that represents her soul.

I took a training course for the Stephen Ministry where we heard from families of Alzheimer's, and I'll never forget what one guy said of his mother: Alzheimer's strips away so much, but it cannot erase her soul. And that's who I visit when I visit her.