Life is change. I think Kit and I have established that in everything we’ve written on this blog. Whether the change be self motivated or sprung upon you in the deep recesses of the night, our worlds are in constant flux. I have an upcoming change that is keeping me up at night– and it’s a hard one. It’s usually Kit who sends me emails and texts at 3 am in the morning. Now I’m tossing and turning and 3 am can’t come soon enough.
It’s time to start transitioning my mom into assisted living. Living with Alzheimer’s has been a strange and difficult journey, but rewarding. I can tell being around the hustle and bustle of four kids is starting to wear on my mom. It’s taken me a long time to realize my limitations as a caregiver and her limitations caused by Alzheimer’s. I think the change will be good for mom because she’ll have older folks to socialize with and the downtime she needs too. The quiet you can’t find in a house of seven people.
It isn’t really my mom I’m super worried about, it’s me. People always ask me how my mom is doing and how the caregiving is going. Caregiving changes daily. At the end of my day I usually reflect on whether we had a good day or a not so good day. These thoughts play in my mind as I drift off to sleep. The other night I woke up with a start. The day before had been Brynn’s 16th birthday. We had celebrated at home with presents, cake and cards. We have a tradition in our family to read each card aloud. Being that it was Brynn’s Sweet 16 we all had some pretty sappy words to share. Tommy, my husband, wrote about how proud he was of her and how he knew she would be able to accomplish anything in life. I simply wrote, “I remember the day you were born. It was and still is one of the happiest days of my life, because God gave you to me.” I’ve given that memory of mine to Brynn. We share it and it bonds us. That night I woke up and realized there is a hole where my mom and I shared that bond. I remember it, she doesn’t.
I’m always searching for words to explain Alzheimer’s to people. The image came to me that night. It’s like when you’re making sugar cookies. You roll out the dough and take your cookie cutter shape, a heart, and punch out the cookies. Once you’ve removed the cookies you have these empty hearts and the remaining scraps and bits of dough. Those empty hearts are the shared memories you’ve lost. The cutout is still there but something is missing. That’s why it’s so hard for me to let go of mom. I’m holding on to those hearts for the both of us.
I know this change is inevitable. Many times even now my mom doesn’t know who I am, but I am the face she recognizes the most. It’s funny sometimes I’ll come home after being out shopping etc and mom will welcome me with a sigh of relief. I know I’m her touchstone, the only thing that is familiar and constant. So here’s a change I didn’t think I would be dealing with before my oldest went off to college…letting my mom go off to assisted living. You never know what change life will throw at you next. I read a quote the other day “Accommodate changing times, but cling to unchanging principles” -Jimmy Carter. I guess that’s what I’ll have to do and cling to the memories we once shared.