Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Learning About Alzheimer's -- Part 2 of 5

Today, we continue with an excerpt from Where Love Once Lived. This is the second part of Chapter Eight where Brian learns his mother has Alzheimer's.

Brian was suddenly aware of the rhythm of his heart. What he felt reminded him of a Hawaiian fire dance he’d once witnessed on a trip to Maui where the drummer gradually increased the tempo and intensity of the beat as the dancers twirled their fiery batons close to their bodies. He felt caught up in the whirlwind of the dance and was so off balance he looked around for a place to fall gracefully in hopes of not frightening his daughter. Instinctively, he gulped in air and quickly regained his equilibrium before Amy knew anything was wrong.

Alzheimer’s. He knew enough about it to know it wasn’t good. He was swamped with thoughts. Would she know him? Why hadn’t he visited her sooner? Had Dad deliberately kept her illness from him? Was Amy in on it?

“How long have you known about this?”

She was on the verge of tears, but maintained eye contact as she answered. “I wanted to tell you. Grandpa made me promise to wait until you came to town. He didn’t want you to learn about it by phone or anything other than face-to-face. I’d reached the point where I knew I had to tell you even if it meant breaking my word to him.”

Brian remembered the last few conversations with his daughter. “Is this why you’ve been begging me to visit every time we talk?” He’d been so busy trying to pursue Karen he didn’t realize his daughter needed him.

“Yes,” she said. “Of course, I want you to visit, too, but I wanted you to find out about Grandma without breaking my promise to Grandpa.”

“How long has she been sick?” Brian asked, holding Amy’s hand.

“It’s hard to say when it started, but we’ve been sure about it for a couple of months now. It may have started before you were here last. That was about six months ago, right?”

He thought about his last visit with his parents and couldn’t recall anything unusual except his mother’s insistence that he go to church. She’d talked to him about God many times before, but this time there was a sense of urgency in her voice he hadn’t heard before.

“Yes, that’s about right. She seemed okay then. Will she know me?”

She shook her head slowly. “Probably not. There are times when she is aware of the present, but most of her memories are of the time when she finished high school. Usually, she thinks Grandpa is her father and I’m a schoolmate. I’m sorry.”

The door opened and Brian’s dad stood in the opening, wearing jeans that hung loosely below his waist and a wrinkled, white T-shirt that looked as if it could use a washing. Thinning hair flew out in all directions, and gray stubble covered his chin.

1 comment:

  1. Email from a friend:

    My father had Alzheimer's. I remember always introducing myself "hi Daddy - it's Judy, your daughter" and that seemed to work for him. Other than that, he would bounce between the present and the past. He once asked me how my mother was, and I told him she was dead (he was there when she died at home). He got visibly upset because he had forgotten this, even though I know that he tried to keep it in the forefront of his mind immediately after she died. Whenever he asked after that, I would tell him that she had gone to visit her family in Nebraska, was playing bridge, or some such. He seemed comfortable with this. While in the personal care home, he usually thought that he was at an English conference of some sort. He would, however, react to things, such as a football player named Joe Jones (his name). It was not too sad for me, because he seemed content in his own world.