Lessons from Alzheimer's
Throughout the years, zingers have been thrown to me. Countless decision-making episodes have been dumped in my lap. Tears have been shed through two divorces. I have asked myself, "Am I a total failure?"
Knowing that I am not alone. Knowing that many of us have felt this way at one time or another has offered me a sustaining edge. I'm lifted from the web I have weaved and from the web I've allowed others to weave, imprisoning me at the time with grief and pain.
Learning will be my path in life forever, and I'm glad. I know today that it is because of my past pains that I can deal with today. It's the years behind me that have presented me with the strength I need to get through this day - this heartbreaking day of Alzheimer's.
Ironically, my mother's Alzheimer's is teaching me that I do not need to remember every little painful specific, not in the manner I once remembered them. What a relief to draw the honest conclusion that I'm no longer there. I've changed, and in many ways because of past experiences.
My mother's Alzheimer's is teaching me that I can look at life in a variety of ways. Didn't someone once say "variety is the spice of life?" I agree, for there are some spices that are good, and other spices that taste terrible. The uplifting spices of life are mixed with the downtrodden spices. So it is up to me to create a recipe of life that I can not only endure, but enjoy.
My mother's Alzheimer's is teaching me that it is not necessary to return to painful experiences in my life. They now come to me in a different light. I needed every single pain in my past to enable me to grow up, to come to the realization that I made it through without the earth opening up and shoving me in it. I needed grief to know that if I could make it through that, I can make it through anything.
My mother's Alzheimer's is teaching me that sometimes I need distance from me; a movie, a book or writing. We all need space, but I'm now learning that space is needed from Beverly. Then I can return to Beverly, love her, and thank her for letting go of her doom and gloom.
My mother's Alzheimer's is teaching me that if we love, bit by bit we feel pain. My self has been deeply connected with my loving mother for my entire life. It is terribly difficult observing and feeling her slip away as she grows absent from me; indifferent toward me, hostile toward me. Just the other day she looked at me as though she was a prosecuting attorney in the Nuremburg trial. Of course, I was the one being prosecuted. Just the other day my once loving mother said, "Beverly, I can't stand the sight of you."
Having grown up in a good home with wonderful parents, this pain is the deepest I've experienced. Certainly, we have had our moments through the years. We've had our disagreements that sometimes led to arguments. But this is different. It's new. My mother's Alzheimer's is teaching me that "new" is not always refreshing.
Above all, my mother's Alzheimer's is teaching me to permit the present pain that I, as in my past, will be prompted to endure. There is a silver lining. Amazingly, I had to revert to my past in a different way to understand its significance.
Had I not gone through former grief, there would not be a way to cope with this dreadful disease of Alzheimer's. So I am thankful. Without former hurtful experiences, I could never feel so happy and thrilled as I am in the moment when Mother decides to ever so briefly send a smile to me. I love her, unconditionally. My mother's Alzheimer's has taught me the authentic meaning of unconditional love.
Past pain diminishes with a blessing. Because of each painful experience, I can grab onto delight today, if only for a moment. Never before have I known the incredible and priceless value of a smile from my mom. What a joy ... a joy that I'll hold tight for the future; a genuine keepsake.