Sixth Thanksgiving

I used that headline because it’s hard to say. You have to pause between the words. Kind of like it’s hard to have another Thanksgiving meal at Mom’s nursing home. I don’t mean to be ungrateful about the time I am able to spend with Mom. It’s just very interesting, and also dreadful, to arrive at another annual event and think, wow, she has been at this nursing home for a long time. And she has had Alzheimer’s a lot longer than that.

Tonight she seemed subdued, perhaps a little distressed. Her brows were knitted throughout the visit. She talked quite a bit, and responded with a nod of the head a few times – particularly when Patrick gently rubbed her cheek and asked if she liked it. And then, out of the blue, she said, “I don’t know where I am.” Her only coherent phrase.

We took turns feeding her. Reassuring her. Trying to make her laugh or smile. I got a sense at one point that she was feeling a little ornery in response to Patrick, who mercilessly teased her – just like he always used to. It’s very possible that I imagined that, though.

Next to us at the table, I met a resident who has lived at the Alz center for two years. I had never laid eyes on him. I talked to his wife a little bit, and she said he spends most of his time in his room. And I overheard a few things she said to him: “We went to St. Croix and stayed at your friend’s place.” “You golfed in Scotland.” “We could have used a few more good years together since we got a late start.” Very matter-of-fact. And he was engaged in the conversation. It was both comforting and quite sad to hear.

First attempt at a selfie. I wanted a shot of all 3 of us.

First attempt at a selfie. I wanted a shot of all 3 of us.

Success, sort of. It was tough to convince Mom to fully open her eyes.

Success, sort of. It was tough to convince Mom to fully open her eyes.

If you put your face close enough, Mom might offer a kiss.

If you put your face close enough, Mom might offer a kiss.

Patrick and I took turns feeding Mom. She dutifully opened up every time the spoon neared her mouth. And then, abruptly, she pushed her plate away. She rubbed her eyes and scratched her ear. I’m amazed that she still knows how to address those physical sensations, that she can scratch an itch and even pick her nose. Maybe it’s regression and disinhibition, but considering that her brain has lost almost all language, there is some powerful information still in there that lets her find a way to fix what’s bothering her. Similarly, when Patrick and I started taking pictures and getting into her space, she crossed her arms and hunched forward, as if to protect herself from what could have felt like a physical threat. And yet, we were hugging and kissing her.

I explained to an old support group friend that I don’t visit Mom as often as I used to, and that sometimes when I do visit, I’m an annoyance to Mom. Or at least there was a period when that was the case. She doesn’t visit her husband as much as she used to, either. “He doesn’t miss me,” she said, as we both nodded, knowing we are on the same page in many respects about this disease. “They don’t miss us.”

3 comments so far

  1. Jeff on

    I like Mom’s hair in these pictures, and she looks nice in that shirt you for for her. This was an interesting post for me, especially in the timing of the center celebrating Thanksgiving a week early. Your observations about her behavior are fascinating, that language being mostly gone hasn’t prevented physical awareness and habits from fully presenting themselves. The last paragraph is sad and also true.

  2. momsbrain on

    Hi, Jeff-I like Mom’s hair like that, too. She couldn’t be convinced that short hair was cute on her before she got sick. The brain is a mysterious thing. Cells are dying all over the place, but the ones enabling the scratch of an itch are still alive, I guess. Thanks for commenting from Paris!!

  3. Laura on

    Great pics!!

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