I have been losing my mom, bit by bit, for at least the last seven years, whenever it was that Alzheimer’s first began its dirty work. I lost the rest of her this afternoon as I stroked her hair and told her how much I loved her. Jennie and I said good-bye as she took her last breaths, hopeful that she heard our voices, felt our caresses, and knew in her heart, if not in her mind, how much she was loved, what a good mother and grandmother she was, and how many lives she touched with her gentle spirit. We told her that she would live in our hearts forever, and she will.
Beebe clung to life longer than any of us expected, surprising two sets of hospice carers over the last 27 days as we kept vigil, first at the Alzheimer’s facility where she had lived for almost three years and at the hospice care center where she died. (Beebe’s obituary.)
I have made Beebe’s struggle with Alzheimer’s a public one. Sharing it has helped me deal with the grief and frustration of losing her over the years. It was also the only way I could think of to fight back. Connecting with others who walk along the same path has given me strength. Knowing that our journey has helped others cope has kept me going. Reading the comments you have written over the last month especially have given me comfort.
My job as personal advocate for Beebe is now over. The part of my brain that had to keep track of her safety and well-being, the minutia of caregiving, can now be filled with other pursuits. Although I will continue to fight Alzheimer’s in her memory, it is time now for me to reconstruct that memory, to focus on the woman who was my mother, not just on the woman who had Alzheimer’s and needed my care.
For many years I assumed the role of her parent; now it is time to switch back to being her daughter, to remember her throughout her whole life certainly, but to refocus my memories of her before the Alzheimer’s. During the last year I had to retrain myself to call her Beebe instead of Mom. It never felt right, but she simply forgot she was a mother and wouldn’t know someone was talking to HER. So, she was Beebe to everyone, including me. Now I can call her Mom again.
Mom was a hoot. She loved to make things, to grow things, and to learn things. She had a slew of friends from all walks of life who always smiled when they were with her. She loved to laugh. You just weren’t the same after you met her. I’ve spent the last six hours trying out all sorts of ways to share what she was like with photographs and comments and I’ve come to the conclusion that my family pictures and quaint stories are only fascinating to me and a few friends who love me too much to tell me otherwise.
So, I thought I’d take another tack. I’m sure some memories with corresponding photographs will ooze out in the blog in the months to come, but for right now I’ll share some phrases that have been in my lexicon my whole life, thanks to my mother. As they’ve popped out of my mouth these last weeks I was reminded how uniquely “her” they are, except that she probably picked some of them up my grandfather because my cousins pepper their language with some of the same Beebe-isms!
When Steve and I married they became part of his vocabulary. When Jen came along they worked their way into the next generation. I want to share them with you because just recalling has made me smile. Maybe you will too and when you pass them along you’ll think of the remarkable woman who gave them to me.
WASH YOUR PAWS: You’d want to do this before eating, even if you use silverware but especially if you don’t. Similar to WIPE YOUR PAWS, like when you come in from outside and your shoes might be muddy. Also useful for small children when crossing the street: “Give me your paw.”
TROWEL: Something you dry your paws on if you’ve just washed.
SHOVEL OVER: What you tell someone you want to sit next to when they are mostly where you want to put your butt. Could be a sliding over in the back seat of the car, on the sofa, or on the front stoop.
MAROON: A sad discovery of limited intelligence that could have been avoided had the person just not opened their mouth and allowed the rest of us to simply wonder.
STOOP: So incredibly similar to a maroon that they are interchangeable. Nothing, however, like a front stoop.
DESTRUCTIONS: Sewing patterns come with them, so do children’s toys that need to be put together. You’re supposed to read them before you start.
ORAFICE: The place where you work. As in, “See you later, I’m going to the orafice.”
SPOOM: The eating utensil that is next to your knife and near your fork.
BERSERK: What you get to eat if you finish all your vegetables.
STOMACH CAKE: A kind of berserk with frosting. If it is served in honor of your birthday then it comes with candles and maybe ice cream which you can eat with a spoom.
TOOKIE: Another kind of berserk. Many people like chocolate chip tookies.
FLUTMEAL: Named for the sound this breakfast cereal makes when it is cooked on the stove: “flut….flut…..flut.” (Not Cream of Wheat.) Flutmeal also makes good tookies.
HYSTERICAL MUSEUM: Like the Art Museum, but the displays are about events of the past.
That’s it for now. I’m not going to make it in to my orafice for at least a few more days so if you would like to share a comment, please do so here on the blog. And now that I’ve posted I’m going to reward myself with a flutmeal tookie, Mom’s favorite kind. As always, thank you for your kindness and compassion.