Mom rides in the car beside me, on the way home from daycare. This is part of our weekly routine. Routine is essential in caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. There is not much to say, only, did you have a good day?
“Yes,” she always says, “what else can you do?”
Sometimes this same answer frustrates me when I pick her up.
But today, when the weather has finally cooled, and the afternoon sun catches her cheek on the drive home
and we drive by the brand new memory care center I think of admitting her to every time we pass by
it doesn’t bother me as much.
I know the ladies at the day care center have had a wonderful day with her. One showed me a picture on the phone. She played the piano today at the center. Of all the things she couldn’t remember, that she did recall, sitting at the piano.
Today they also played the African drums I got for them at the music festival last week. I convinced the man from Senegal to give me these beautiful handmade drums at a good price so I could donate them to the center. The day care ladies raved how the group loved beating out rhythms on the drums today. How it brought smiles to their faces.
But mom doesn’t remember the drums either. As I ask her the more questions about her day, halfway home she blurts out, “I think I need to go home to daddy. I need to check on him and see how he is doing.”
I pause. “Mom,” I tell her, “he’s already gone.” Beneath her little grey head and small pale eyes a look of shock registers
“He is? How long has he been gone.”
“Sixteen years. Since Lauren was a baby. You have been living with me for seven years.”
Her face, empty of any recognition, falls. “How come I don’t remember.”
I say nothing.
We make the turn at the corner, past the cemetery blocks from my home.
“Who is at home with Daddy?” she asks.
I repeat the same answer I gave a few minutes earlier.
I get the same empty look, a sense of grasping for recollection.
She hadn’t missed him.
Then this morning I see this video of Glen Campbell. I remember watching him on the Ed Sullivan show in the living room where my parents lived for 40 years. I remember the album cover by my dad’s old stereo.
And now, I grasp the meaning of his song, “I’m not Gonna Miss You”.
For the beauty of Alzheimer’s in a soul like my mother’s is that there is no pain. Only recollections she holds onto momentarily like tears or raindrops that melt away.
And once she lets go of the tear it is gone. Wiped away.
The only pain is mine.
But if that tear can grace her cheek then melt into oblivion then I must let my own do the same.
I already miss her. The her that would ask about my day, or chat over coffee with me.
But she doesn’t miss me. Her eyes still light up when me or my kids walk into the room. She still reaches and argues for a kiss “that I can feel” in the evening when I say goodnight.
And when I struggle over what is the right thing to do I remember. She feels no pain. She only lives in the moment. So her momentary tears and frustrations are easily dissolved and forgotten
while mine linger in my heart and burn a hole in my soul,
especially as I hear the words that Glen Campbell sings in that familiar voice:
I won’t be missing you
I don’t know the pain you feel
Or the things you do and say each day
I only know you are the last one I say good bye to
And I’m not going to miss you