I shared this with a couple of friends last week but it’s been weighing heavy on my mind still.
For those of you who have been through Alzheimers or dementia with a loved one, you will understand. For those of you haven’t, and I pray you don’t, you will come to realize one day that the person you’ve known your whole life is gone. And unlike death, you see their physical body standing before you and usually for years, they look the same as they always did. But eventually, it empties itself of the person you knew.
I was riding Miss Daisy the other night and we went to Lowe’s for me to pick something up. They had these gorgeous flowers outside, which I always admire but which I never purchase because I know nothing about flowers. That was always Mama’s thing and she (nor I) had time for her to teach me. For a brief moment, I debated on asking Mama what I should buy to put around my front porch at the studio and at the house, both of which look like they’ve been abandoned as far as landscaping, and while I knew her answer, it was still hard to hear, “I don’t know.” I walked her over and asked her if I should do this one or that one…. still “I don’t know.” It was a difficult moment for me because it was another reminder of Mama being gone.
Mitch and I both would hear Mama say at some point “do you want me to put some flowers around your mailbox” or “do you want me to put some flowers around that lamp post” or something like that and we’d always say yes, not really thinking about it again as life was busy and flowers were not high on the list. But then we’d come home from work one day and lo and behold, there they were. It might be a small patch here or there but there they were. It didn’t matter if they were your favorite flower or not, just the fact that the little flower fairy herself had come over there while we were gone and did that meant everything. They were usually always pansies by the way and I do love pansies…. of course, I can’t look at a pansy now without thinking about Mama.
But we left Lowe’s and I realized Mama was gone. My sister-in-law used to tell me when her Daddy was like this that her Daddy was already gone. His body was still there and she loved him and would take care of him, of course, but the Daddy she knew was gone. I never really grasped that until now. Mama that used to cook and laugh and plant flowers and play Rook and fuss about the post office and take her friends to lunch…. is no more. That physical body is still hers and sometimes she looks at me and I see her in there for brief moments at a time when she can remember my name. But others, the shell seems so empty and lost like she’s in there and can’t get out. I will always love this part of her and take care of her until her last breath, or mine, but it breaks my heart to think about her the way she was and knowing how mortified she would be to see herself this way. It simply sucks.
Her birthday is tomorrow and we’ve struggled with what to do for her… crowds send her over the edge at times, staying at home does too… she doesn’t even know it’s her birthday. Which sometimes I wish I could forget mine:)
I miss you already Mama… and happy birthday.