I recently did the hardest thing that a child ever has to do for a parent. I moved my mother away from the home she has known for decades, from the husband she has lived and loved with for 57 years, to a place with nothing and no one familiar to her, to a care facility because she has Alzheimer’s.
I didn’t ask for this assignment. It just happened that as my father and brother were making the financial arrangements and signing half of Dad’s life away, I was the only other sibling living locally who could easily get off work to move Mom’s belongings and be waiting for her when she arrived at her new home. Mom made her grand entrance atop the ambulance stretcher, kicking and screaming with every turn of the wheels. “Where am I? How in the hell did I get here?! I’m not staying here! What in the hell is going on?! This is bullshit!” “You!”, she said, pointing to me. “I’m mad at you!” And then she waved the one-finger salute to me with both hands.
My little old Baptist, Sunday School teacher mama can now out-cuss a sailor home on shore leave, and that’s the mildest of the demons that have overtaken my mother. She becomes violent at times and the verbal abuse is unbelievable. I’ve been called everything from the “Whore of Babylon” to the “jezebel floozy.” I’m regularly accused of “doing this” to her, of abandoning her, of not loving her. My mother has become someone whom I often don’t recognize and can’t find beneath the layers of whatever is fogging her mind.
But the one familiar thing that endures with my mother is her stubbornness, the will to fight, the determination not to let the Alzheimer’s get her. She doesn’t really know what’s wrong with her. She thinks she’s just fine and every new day is the day she’s going home. We don’t tell her that she’s there to stay. A thought sticks with her for about three minutes and then it’s gone, as if it were never there at all. So she keeps packing her bag. She tells the nurses that she’s going home today. And by that evening, she forgets and prepares for bed and one more night that will lead to one more brand new day.
My mother is tough. She and her six children survived very hard pregnancies, my mother sick and hospitalized more times than I can remember. But we survived because she persevered, because she was determined that all would live, not one would be lost. And she will survive now because she will persevere and fight once again, and her husband and her children will fight right along with her because that’s what we have learned together as a family.
I believe in the perseverance of the human spirit, to keep fighting against all odds, to never give out, never give in. Alzheimer’s disease is a death sentence. This is what will put my mother in her grave. But she won’t go quietly and she won’t go calmly. She will fight and claw and drag her feet every inch of the journey. Although she faces futility, although she fights a battle that she cannot win, she will still fight because perseverance, the human will, endures.
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