Growing up, I thought my mom was amazing until my obnoxious teenage period, when she couldn’t do anything right. And, except for those years of my mouthy disrespect, Mom and I were best friends.
Now, my best friend is gone. Alzheimer’s has claimed yet another victim, when it choked Mom’s kind, talented spirit to dust, July 8.
In tribute to my mom, Elizabeth Ward, I wrote the book “I Will Never Forget — A Daughter’s Story of Her Mother’s Arduous and Humorous Journey Through Dementia.”
I miss my mom, terribly. But, honestly, “she” was gone a long time before she was “really gone.”
As I approach my first Mother’s Day without her, strangely I feel her energizing spirit envelope me with positive memories and I grieve less for my loss.
I can hear Mom’s kind voice once again, not the ranting of a possessed woman. I can feel her strong arms hugging me, not her foot kicking me. I can see her beautiful eyes and warm smile, not her strained face conveying unadulterated confusion.
Wonderful memories of her are emerging from behind the dark clouds of Alzheimer’s, an insidious disease that robs us of our parents, spouses and loved ones.
Several past Mother’s Days have been laced with drama, tragedy and bewildering behaviors as Mom’s mind was slowly eroding from dementia, one brain cell at a time.
Mom’s worst Mother’s Day ever was in 2003, when my brother Jerry told my parents that he had terminal cancer. No parent should ever have to bury a child, and she had already lost one. (In 1951, as a toddler, my brother David was killed in a car accident. Jerry was four and Mom was four-and-a-half months pregnant with me.)
On Mother’s Day weekend, 2012, Mom spent her last overnight at my house, two hours east of Kalamazoo. Mom woke up late Saturday night, confused and roaming the hall looking for her room at Friendship Village, Number 342.
On Monday morning, my husband Joe was going to drive Mom back to Kalamazoo as I was still working. That morning brought one of her most bizarre disconnections ever.
From “I Will Never Forget”:
Early Monday morning, I was literally startled by the sight of my mom standing in the hallway at the threshold of the kitchen entrance. Her face clearly communicated complete disorientation.
“What are you doing here?”she asked. She was irked but also puzzled.
I approached her slowly as her body language projected fear. “I live here, Mom. You are at my house.”
“Isn’t this Friendship Village? Didn’t Joe take me back already?”
“No. Joe will take you back today.”
“Oh. Okay. I get addled at times,” she said. “I thought Joe had already taken me back.”
And on Mother’s Day 2011, Mom was in the hospital and never rebounded. Mom virtually stopped eating as she started to take control of her own destiny and on July 8, Mom rejoined her “boys.”
So on this Sunday, Mother’s Day 2016, if your mom is with you, embrace her and give her a hug from me. My mom will be smiling down from heaven, no longer confused or in pain, and I will embrace that fact — even if I can’t embrace her.
Elaine C. Pereira was born and raised in Kalamazoo. She now lives in New Boston. She is the author of the book “I Will Never Forget — A Daughter’s Story of her Mother’s Arduous and Humorous Journey Through Dementia.” A portion of the book sales will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.