I Miss You Mama
I know that all those whose lives have been touched, directly or indirectly, by Alzheimer’s have their own real stories to tell. This story is just one of many I have to tell about my Mom. She has been gone now for over 16 years but she will always be in my heart. This article is to give you a glimpse of just one phase of her life journey.
A number of years ago, my Mom developed Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). As you might imagine, it was a very trying time for her and for us as a family. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, it steals one’s short term memory so that a person may seem just a bit forgetful. Simple tasks become increasingly more difficult. Remembering and recognizing numbers become a difficult problem and someone with Alzheimer’s loses the ability to even use the phone. Many find themselves getting lost because they can no longer find their way back home. Once familiar places become unfamiliar and unknown.
A Lifelong Learner
Myrtle Plyler was a woman of high intelligence and great talent. She was a woman of faith who loved and gave of herself like no other. She lived alone after the passing of my Dad. She kept herself busy with her art and with the research and recording of genealogy. She told me once that sometimes her brain just did not work right. Within a couple of years, my Mom who was a lifelong learner found that she could no longer learn anything new. Instead, she was losing the ability to do things that once had been easy for her. That took a lot of joy out of her life.
It was devastatingly sad for us to witness this erosion of her many beautiful talents and traits. There was nothing anyone could do to stop it. Alzheimer’s was robbing her of the life she had known. A life that was much more than just this story. Some of these stories are inspiring, some happy, and some sad. Some would make you cry.
We tried hard to keep her in her own home as long as we could. We checked on her day and night. We made sure that she had every thing that she needed. By this time she had family living all around her but the time came when she could no longer live alone. I moved her into my house with me.
Can you imagine what it is like to be lost within your own self? The places that you know are no longer familiar to you. People that you know don’t know how to deal with the changes in you and some of them avoid you. Depression and loneliness become a big part of your life. That is what Alzheimer’s does to you.
One thing that I will never forget, was the fact that no matter how her days went, there was one place where my Mom always loved to go. It was a place where her Alzheimer’s was checked in at the door – it was her happy place.
The Happy Place
We got Mama a wheelchair because she could not walk very far. She had been housebound for a long time. Now Suddenly, she wanted to go somewhere everyday. There were several places that I took her. we went to the library, to the museum or wherever she wanted to go.
Then there was Kmart. Of all the places that I could take her, Kmart was her favorite one. I don’t know why but it was her “happy place.” There must have been something about the atmosphere of the store. The moment I pushed her wheelchair through the door of Kmart, Mama would automatically start to sing. That’s right, really sing aloud.
She sang a song that she made up as we went through the store. She would look at the things on the shelves and that would be in her song. She sang about all the pretty things she saw. She sang, “♪ Oh look at all the little pretties, ♫ all up on the shelves, the dishes, the glasses, the cups, the lamps… all so neat and pretty. ♪”
A few people would stop and give her that questionable look, but there was no way that I would have tried to shush her up. She was so earnestly happy. She felt as free as a bird flying around. So, I let her sing her heart out and enjoy her moment. Every time we went to Kmart, my Mom’s eyes would light up and she would start singing again. You see, that was my Mom’s happy place. She wouldn’t do that anywhere else, only in her happy place – Kmart.
Sadly, things got worse as my Mom lost more of her memory, along with her other abilities… one by one. But, for as long as she was able for me to take her there, her spirits would be lifted up. Mama would sing her beautiful song… and I would cherish the moment with bitter-sweet tears in my eyes.
Thank you Mom, for the lovely memory of your song, and Happy Mother’s Day.