May 25, 2014: Mom reaches across the half-moon table and grabs a grapefruit (and my heart along with it as I watch video clips of her 2012 after-dinner antics).
I start to cry. It’s not the first time I’ve shed tears today. This morning, two years almost to the day after the grapefruit grab, I went to “The Home” to take her to the weekly sing-along in the first-floor living room. I found her lying coma-like in a recliner in the second-floor sun porch. I was late; it was slightly past 10:00 a.m., and the sing-along had already begun.
“Mom?” No response. I stroke her arm. “Mom?” She’s completely knocked out.
“Patti?” Nothing. I consider going back home and leaving her to sleep. But no–the sing-along is the only group activity in which she can still participate. She can’t play bingo anymore. She no longer goes down to the main floor dining room to eat lunch and dinner with her friend Gaby. She is mostly confined to a wheel chair, a recliner, an armchair or her bed.
Mom loves to sing. Or at least she does when she’s awake and aware. Even now, at this late stage, she sings fairly well when she’s alert. The way things are going she won’t be able to much longer. She adores songs like Somewhere over the Rainbow, She’ll be Coming ‘Round the Mountain, and Doe a Deer among many others, but she’s beginning to have trouble remembering the words.
She’s also been unable to play duets with Eric the past few weeks at our private healing piano sessions. But I know music reaches her core, even when her eyes are glued shut and her face is a mask of indifference. She is in there. I see glimpses of her, more with the sound of music than without.
“Do you want to go down and listen to the music Mom?” I whisper in her ear, hoping my voice makes it to her beleaguered mind. A few seconds later a faint “okay” creeps from her lips. It’s accompanied by an infinitesimal nod. I interpret the combination as: “Yipppeeee! Let’s do it!”
Getting her up and into a wheelchair is no mean feat: her legs are like jelly and she’s a complete dead weight. We manage somehow. Once downstairs she slumps in the wheelchair and sinks into a deeper sleep. Even Doe a Deer doesn’t rouse her. I camouflage my tears behind my red songbook and my cracking voice behind my silent song.
Later, as I watch the clips I filmed two years ago (see below) there’s no need to hide my tears. I am alone with my 2012 Mom, my gratitude at having captured some of our moments together and my grief over losing more of her each day.
We shared many joys and sorrows as well as anguish and anger at that half-moon table in my Mom’s kitchen. I wonder how many thousands of times we sat there over the 40 years she lived in the big red brick house on the hill?
Despite the tears, I’m grateful to hear us laugh at her Alzheimer’s silliness. I’m privileged to have helped her really live even as she dies of Alzheimer’s disease. I’m happy my heart can still touch hers across time and space, plaques and tangles and the half moon table to giggle over orange peels and tomorrow’s potential fruit salad: seven unlucky clementines, three big bananas and two grapefruit (one slightly smaller than the other).
Who knows how we’ll peel them; but we’ll manage somehow.
4 + 3 = 7
“O” is for orange
One, two, three, ALL GONE!