Sunday, January 10, 2016

Do You Remember?

Earliest known picture of my mom holding baby me. 
When I show her this photo, she remembers. 

I spoke to my mom on January 1. My birthday.

Four months had passed since our last contact. She can no longer use a phone, so our conversations are few and far between..

And during that time, her mind has obviously traveled much farther along the road from this life to the next. She tried to participate in our conversation and although her comments were mostly unintelligible, I knew she could understand perfectly well what I was saying.

Do you remember? I asked her, over and over again.

Do you remember the big sleet storm on the night before I was born?

Do you remember how the roads were covered with ice, and it took you hours to make the twenty-minute drive to the hospital?

Remember how people were crawling along the icy sidewalks outside the hospital on their hands and knees, since walking upright was impossible?

Remember how the admitting area was decorated with balloons and streamers, and all the staff were wearing party hats and blowing noise makers? And when you asked if they were celebrating the new year, they smiled and said no, this is all for you...we're celebrating your new baby?

And do you remember how in the first day of my life, I caught a cold? And I had to be put into isolation and the only people who were allowed to touch me were the doctor and you?

She remembered.

I know my mom loves the story of my birth and I know she loved hearing me tell it to her once again.

* * * * *

One of the cardinal rules of care for Alzheimer's patients is to never ask Do you remember.

Because Alzheimer's patients can't remember. And asking them to do so only frightens and confuses them. Not a good move.

But my mom does not have Alzheimer's.

She has advanced Lewy Body Dementia and sadly enough, she can often remember her life with perfect clarity. In many ways, this is far worse than forgetting, because my mother has a pretty clear picture of how far she has fallen. There are moments when the grief for what has been lost overwhelms her and that is a very hard thing for a daughter to bear.

But there are other times when - with a little prompting - my mom can remember the joys of her life, and I consider it my sacred privilege to take her back to those moments whenever I can.

Do you remember, Mom?

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