Sunday, July 18, 2010


There is a lady in front of me , as I walk the walkway to the front door of the nursing home. She very quickly punches in the security code, so I am spared doing so.
As I enter the lobby, I catch a glimpse of my mama rolling her wheel chair around the corner…I figure she is headed toward her room, but as I rounded the corner, I find that I had been wrong…my mama has stopped to chat with a lady. A lady  that is in a semi-comatose state. Mama is holding a pretty good one sided conversation with her as I come up behind her. I grab hold of the handles to her chair and say “Hello mama, I love you!”  She quickly turns her head to be able to see who has hold of her and says, “ Have you come to roll me back to my room?”
I stare into her blue eyes and I wait for a flicker of recognition. When it finally comes, she thinks I am her long dead cousin’s daughter…and my heart sinks.
I know this is going to be another hard visit.
I slowly roll her to her room and when we get there, we both notice that the room is cold as ice…so I quickly go and turn the air down… because my Mama is cold natured.
When I get that done, I turn and go back to her and sit on her bed. She is sitting there with the brightest smile on her face. I ask her how she has been doing and she quickly tells me about the cold she has…a cold that she has had for years…and how it is all in her chest. (Where this pretend cold came from and why it has stuck around in her mind all these years, no one knows, but I believe it is her way of knowing that she has to have help because she is sick….Through all the years that I have known her, my mama never let anyone help her, or tend to her…so I figure that in her mind, she has to be sick to stay in the ‘hospital’.)
Mama asks me who I am…and I tell her, "Mama, I am Carlene; your baby.” She thinks about that for only a  minute before her face lights up and her eyes begin to sparkle and she says, “Carlene! Are you my baby girl?” My heart lifts and just as I am saying , “Yes, mama, I am your baby”…I see her eyes begin to dull and glaze over and I know that she has already forgotten me…her baby girl. My mama has no short term memory left and what you tell her only remains for a minute before it is gone…and forgotten.
Here is part of the conversation we had today…..

Mama: “ How’s your mama?”
Me: “ She is okay”  ( I learned  a while back not to antagonize her by trying to get her to understand the truth…and my mama is okay…sort of.)
Mama: “Why don’t you come live with us? I will make sure that you have plenty to eat”  ( I don’t know yet who the ‘us’ is…but that’s my mama for you…always worried about folks going hungry…)
Me: “I can’t…I have to work”
Mama: “ What…I can’t hear you. Tell it to this ear.” ( she leans forward and points to her right ear.)
Me:I have to work!” ( leaning forward and trying to talk loudly into her ear and trying to make sure my pronunciation is clear)
Mama: “ Whaaaaaaat???? I can’t hear you…try it again” as she shakes her ear vigorously and leans forward….again.
Me: I have to work, I can’t live with you.”  ( I say this as I am groping around in my purse to find an ink pen and piece of paper…It is strange how her hearing improves when I start writing what I say down!
Mama:Please come and live with us…you won’t have no worries, no rentnothing…” She is smiling and clapping her hands now like a little girl….
Me: “ Okay mama”
Mama: “ Really!!?…My Mama loves you to death and I won’t let the kids bother you” (She is talking about her mama…Who the kids are, I don’t know…unless they are us…me and my sisters and brothers back in the past)
Mama: “ Are  you staying with your mama? How is Aunt Hallie Armour? She was my favorite aunt! Please tell her that I love her. She can come live with us too! After you left that least time,  I missed you so much. ” 
I am just nodding silently now…
Mama:  “I’ve been going to school…are you still in school too? I can quit…the way things are now…”  ( she lets the rest just hang there.
Mama: “ Why don’t you come live with us? Walt loves yall too.  Do you like the country?” ( ‘Walt’ was my daddy…my hero…the man I thought walked on water….He died in 1985. ‘The country’ is where we grew up…on HORSESHOE BEND.)
Mama: “ I don’t know when they are going to come get me…they haven’t said.” ( I don’t know what she meant by this…but it gave me an eerie feeling, since she had been talking about all those loved ones that have gone on to the afterlife…)
By this time, I am silently nodding…biting my lip and trying my damndest to swallow the ever growing lump in my throat and not  cry in front of her as I tell her I have to leave…and yes, I may be back tonight……
As I go stand out in the hall…the nurse finds me crying and asks what is wrong…when I tell her how mama doesn’t know me and how it hurts so bad….she says that maybe I should come more and more often and stay longer and longer each time I come …
Now, I know she is trying her best to be helpful, but I am thinking…
Dear Lord…Can’t she see how this is killing me????
There is no daddy anymore….
There is no granny….
 There is no home back on HORSESHOE BEND
They are all gone….
Except in her mind.


Kathy said...

Oh Carlene. It is so tough to see them go away and to know that they won't be back. Whether it's their mind or they've passed, you miss them.

My mother passed six years ago and today, after a nice outing with Em, we came home and I walked over the to kitchen phone, picked it up ... stopped and thought, why am I calling my mother? I guess I needed her today.

Adirondackcountrygal said...

Hi Carlene, I know how hard it is for you with your Mama, seeing her leaving you mentally is so hard. The best thing to do is just to agree with her. Don't try and reason because in a couple minutes she won't remember anyhow and there is no point in arguing! I find that distraction works to a point with some Alzheimer's patients. I'm glad they are taking good care of your Mama.

madcobug said...

God bless you and your sweet Mama Carlene. Helen

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

My heart goes out to you and many others too that watch their loved ones fade away. Due to my parents illnesses they did loose their memory shortly before they died so I have an inkling of how hard it is. It is just heart breaking for us but not for them...try to take comfort in that. Your MaMa is not suffering. It is little comfort I know but some.

Suzi Que said...

Oh, Carlene... How sad this is. I can't imagine what this feels like. I suppose I am thankful that my Mama passed away before this terrible thing could happen to her.

When Aunt Molly passed and we were in Greensboro, as you know, we visited your Mama. It was sad, but so sweet all the same. She's in there, indeed, but it's as if she's in the distance - traveling back to the past.
It was painful to have to re-introduce myself as "Helen's daughter" over and over again, but only because each time I did it, she asked "How is Helen? I love her so much." and then when we said she'd passed away it brought tears to her eyes. Finally we just said " She's fine". We couldn't bear to hurt her over and over even if she did forget it almost immediately. We couldn't fight the smiles when she excitedly introduced us over and over as "My daughters, Sue Ellen and Linda!" to her table neighbor. Once she looked at Linda and asked her if she was her Mama. Then she thought she was Helen, our Mama. She's a precious, precious gem of my past, Carlene, and I love her. I wish there was some way that I could help you bear this anguish of Alzheimers. I could only liken it to having a living photograph - caught in time, but not the present.
I love you. Be strong.

Paula said...

I'm so very sorry you are having to go through this Carlene. I know how much you love your sweet Mama. My oldest sister's husband had this terrible disease and at one time he thought my sister was trying to poisen him and she would never have done anything close to that.

Jeannette said...

Oh how I feel for you. My father had Alzheimer's for the last five years of his life, I remember going through things just like you. God bless you.

ELLIE said...

I so know how you feel and what you are going through - it just hurts your heart so much to see it--the hardest thing to deal with - HUGS HUGS HUGS Carlene - my prayers are always there for your Mama and you - rest in the knowledge that God truly takes care of those who are so fragile -

Barbara said...

All I can say is that you and your mama are in my prayers. My heart goes out to you, Carlene.

Arlene (AJ) said...

Carlene my heart goes out to you, I know your visits with your Mom are so hard, Alzheimer's is one of the hardest illnesses for the loved ones of someone who has this illness to get through. Bless you for the love you have and always show your Mom when you visit with're one special daughter and even if Mom doesn't always recognize you or forgets just a few minutes after telling her you're her Carlene...may it comfort you to know that your Mom is happy in her own way and at peace. You're one special daughter for sure.

Myra said...

Alzheimers is soooo hard, Carlene, on those of us who know. All you can do is continue to see your mama, and love her, whether she knows it or not. You do.

ADB said...

I once visited a geriatric ward in a hospital. A lady, suffering from Alzheimer's, came up to me - way too close. I pushed her away gently. Someone who was with me was petrified. I was not. I had to say to the other person: This is someone's mother. This is someone's granny. It could be your mom or gran. She is ill. Very ill. I wish you strength, Carlene - this is so hard.

Paula said...

Carlene thank you so much for the cute birthday card. Thought I had your e-mail but couldn't find it. That was very sweet of you, Paula