Dementia brings early goodbyes to parents

It’s been a long time since I blogged, but I hope to change that. While I couldn’t participate in last night’s Chicagonow blogging exercise, I elected to try to respond to the prompt this afternoon. The rules: bloggers are given one hour to respond to and post a prompt.

Last night’s prompt: Write about a time you had to say goodbye.

I lost my mom eight years ago, but said goodbye to her well before then. My mom had Lewy Body Syndrome, a form of dementia that the doctors dubbed a cousin of Alzheimer’s.

Over the course of our lives, my mom and I loved each other, but weren’t close. Our interests and perspectives were very different. Most of the time, my mom had issues with me—what I wore, who I dated, and what I wanted to study. When I was in high school we fought daily, and I was grounded regularly (my high school friends used to beam their car headlights into my parents’ home in protest of each grounding and my mom would threaten to call the police). When I was in college, my mom tracked my whereabouts. When I was in law school, she doubted my choice of husband.

Her mind, while she still had it, changed about the last issue. Somehow, my husband’s good nature and good judgment grew on her. She loved my kids, too, and even though I perplexed her at times, she admired my mothering and was there for me when I had a serious and unexpected illness.

Perhaps the happiest times I had with my mom occurred during family gatherings, immediate and extended. My mom loved gathering the family at her home. It was one of the few joys and interests we shared until the day my mom had to “draw the clock.”

Some of you might be familiar with procedures for identifying dementia. Typically, a relative takes an individual to a neurologist to pinpoint the reasons for unusual behavior. In this case, my mom and I were seeking help because my mom had been found wandering around our town with no idea of her address. The neurologist asked my mom to perform a series of simple, cognitive exercises: state the date, name the President, fold a napkin and draw a clock.

My mom was having trouble drawing the clock. As I sat beside her, I got so nervous watching her that it took me a minute to figure out how to draw a clock. I waited for my mom to draw the numbers on the face of her hand drawn clock, but she couldn’t get past drawing the circle. After a time, my mom looked up, smiled at the neurologist, and folded her hands.

My mom was in her mid sixties then. She would live another ten years, but I said goodbye to my mom that day.

I tell people that when one loses a mother, one loses a lot. My mom was the glue of our family. As my mom deteriorated, fewer and fewer friends and family members came to visit her. My siblings and I lost touch with nearly all of them. In fact, I can’t remember the last time all of my relatives gathered together for a holiday.

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Tags: Dementia, Lewy Body, Mothers

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