God willing, Mama will turn 85 on December 16th. Anyone who has ever encountered her knows that her sense of humor is incredible. Even in the throes of dementia, she is hilarious. That character trait is the one thing that makes this disease’s progress more bearable. Outside of that, seeing her being destroyed by this thing is nothing short of devastating.
The onset of her symptoms began in 2007 shortly after I moved to Dallas. In the beginning, we just assumed that she was forgetting things as she was getting older. With the added pressure of trying to care for one of my brothers who suffers from schizophrenia, we just figured she was taking on too much as we had seen her do our entire lives. Unfortunately, soon enough, the real issue presented itself. More and more often, she was forgetting things. The truth is that Mama’s sense of humor and personality managed to disguise the disease for a while. We never knew if she was kidding or if she had truly forgotten something.
The first time she looked at me and asked me who I was, I thought I would die. This was the woman who raised me to keep my head up. This was the woman who raised me to be independent. This was the woman who I could go to with any problem, knowing she would steer me in the right direction. For a while I had to drive from Dallas once a month to handle her financial matters because she didn’t trust anyone else to do it. Each time I had to leave her at the end of the day, a small piece of me died. I want my mama back. I needed my mama while I went through the divorce.
Just today, I spent a little time with her as it was the first time in three days that she’s been out of bed. It was a bad day for her as she constantly saw her mom and dad who have both been gone for many, many years. At one point, she asked my sister, who is her primary caregiver, who she was. It will never matter how many times she asks us who we are, it still stabs the heart to the core each time.
Our time here is limited. Enjoy what you have left with the ones you love. Grudges, revenge, anger, bitterness – none of those things should dictate your days. What time I have left with my mama will be as joyous as I can make it. I will enjoy the good days and help her through the bad ones as best I can. Live your life on purpose.