Mom reaches a milestone

Today is Mom’s 75th birthday. I don’t care much about birthdays – at least my own – but I have been sort of sad about this one. Mostly, I think, because it has prompted lots of thoughts about Mom, and about the most recent milestone birthday that we celebrated in a big way – her 60th birthday. Her friend Eve hosted a party. Jeff, Laura and I (and Patrick) were all there. Several friends of Mom’s traveled to attend. One friend gave her a rice cooker – a funny thing for Mom, who probably never cooked rice once in her life. She gave it to me, and I still use that cooker to this day.

I have no recollection of what we did on her 65th birthday. By her 70th, she was damaged enough by the disease that we didn’t make a big deal of the number, just the day, because she could still enjoy a fuss on her behalf. I’m also reminded of my 40th birthday, when Patrick threw a surprise party for me at Buca di Beppo. Mom was just a couple of weeks from being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but she kept the secret of the party, showed up on time and had gotten me a shirt at Kohl’s. All tasks that probably weren’t so easy for her by then. She was a little adrift at the dinner party – it was loud and there was constant activity as guest after guest gave me a bottle of wine – Patrick’s suggested gift. It was a genuine surprise and a fun night. I’m so glad Mom was there.

Today I visited her after lunch with Hershey bar in hand. She was just finishing her meal, wiping up beans and corn with her fingertips. She stood and I cleared her tray. We took a walk; she held my hand. When we got to the lobby, she turned and said, “I love you, honey,” and gave me a kiss. We sat on a couch and she immediately turned so she could partially stretch out, with her knees bent and her feet wedged under my legs. I handed her pieces of chocolate bar one at a time. Once she got the pieces in her hand, she knew just what to do – pop them in her mouth. But it was hard to convince her to just take one from me. I would have to touch her hand with mine, and transfer each piece. There were several unsuccessful attempts, so I ate a few pieces, too. Several staff members stopped to say hi to her and to me. To one woman, Mom turned up her head and exchanged pleasantries – “Hi, Bonnie. How are you?” “Fine. How are you?” To another, she muttered nonsense words. So interesting how that works.

To me, she said, “You’re helping me.” And, “Where’s Emily?” I gently massaged her legs. I could see a dark red patch on the inside of her left elbow. Nurses called me this week to let me know she seemed to have a skin disorder and then again to let me know Mom was being treated with a cream twice a day for seven days. It’s an angry red patch, but Mom didn’t scratch once while I was there, which suggested to me that the cream’s anti-itch properties appeared to be working.

One aide asked me if I had brought a cake today for Mom. “No, just a candy bar,” I said. “Well, maybe you can bring a cake later.” I admit I bristled in response. Just like Mom, I do not like to be told what to do, especially when it comes to her care. I am all for giving Mom the pleasures of a visit, loving touch and social contact, and the sweetness of a tasty treat. But a cake? She wouldn’t even realize what it was. If I thought for one minute she’d be delighted by a cake, I would bring her a cake. But I know, after all this time, that she was quite satisfied with the candy bar.

Patrick sensed my sadness this morning, and sent me flowers this afternoon. Seems silly for me to get flowers for my mom’s birthday. But then again, they gave me some cheer. That guy spoils me so…

An assortment of Gerbera daisies. The card read: “You’re a wonderful daughter and wife.”

13 comments so far

  1. Liz Palika on

    He’s a good man. {{{Hugs}}} to you.

  2. Jenniferjayhawk on

    That is so sweet! I love Gerbera daisies!

    I don’t like to be told what to do either. Maybe they were hoping for a slice of cake. My Mom also loves her chocolate.

    It is tough that your Mom started down the path of Alzheimer’s at such a young age. I can understand why today is such a hard reminder.

  3. Ann on

    Sounds like such a tough day, but I love that she told you she loved you and held your hand. I also love that Patrick bought you flowers on this day. Daisies are the best and so is your hubs!

  4. Mary Jane Metz on

    Happy birthday Bonnie! I thought of you immediately when I saw today’s date. I know I speak for a lot of people when I say I wish we could be friends the way we once were.
    Emily, I’m glad you’ve got a great person to share your life. You’ve been a wonderful daughter!

  5. Jeff on

    You’re a wonderful daughter, wife, and sister. I was pretty sure there would be a blog entry today. It;s been on my mind a lot of today.

  6. Laura on

    I’ve been a little blue today too thinking about the fact that there is nothing I can do for Mom’s birthday. No flowers from my hubby though 😦
    It helps to know that I’ll be seeing her and you soon!

  7. momsbrain on

    Thanks, Liz! Hugs back to you!

    Jennifer: I do think Mom is pretty young, but it’s hard at any age because it’s just such a dreadful disease.

    Ann: Yes, it was a good day with her. She was in good form. And Patrick IS the best! 🙂

    Mary Jane: You and Mom’s other friends improved the quality of her life for so long and I’ve always been grateful she was surrounded by so many loving people. Thank you for such kind words!

    Jeff and Laura: I was surprised at just how much I thought and thought about the birthday as it approached. I think a lot about her age, about when symptoms started, about what I tried to anticipate early on and how things have turned out. I always describe her as healthy as a horse, because she is in good shape these days, at least physically.

  8. Ken on

    you’re a wonderful human being. sounds sappy, but that is what i thought. thank you for sharing this experience.

  9. momsbrain on

    Ken – A little sap never hurt anybody! Thank you so much for such kind words.

  10. patwhite67 on

    Emily, you had it right, being with your mom and sharing the candy bar. It’s the simple things and the love from you that your mom senses that I think really matters.

    I remember we had a birthday party for my mom on her 94th. She did not know what to make of the cake, but she surely did understand the hugs and being with her loved ones.

  11. momsbrain on

    Hi, Pat – I do hope Mom senses my love. Sometimes I’m not sure what she’s thinking when I’m around… but she does enjoy eating candy! 🙂

  12. kazumi on

    Hi, I just happened to get here…but as I was reading I can totally understand about a candy bar you brought. Most of us somehow our reality is everyone\’s reality, maybe only to please us!?
    Much prayers.

  13. momsbrain on

    Kazumi, I’m sorry I didn’t respond to you! Thank you for visiting my blog! I could have made too much of the cake comment – probably because I feel some unnecessary guilt about limiting her treat to a candy bar….

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