When I would tell someone my mom had Alzheimer’s, the first thing they usually asked was, “Does she know who you are?”
There was a time when I could confidently answer, “Yes, she does.” People always seemed so relieved to hear that. “Oh, that’s good!”
While it was good that my mom still knew who I was, I wanted to add, “Yeah, but she gets lost in her own house.” Or, “True, but she can’t remember how to put on a shirt.”
As the years went by, that question became harder for me to answer. There were days my mom would look right at me and not know who I was. Or, she would look at a picture of me and not be able to tell me who was in the picture. But, there were also days when she knew exactly who I was.
I would tell people that sometimes she remembered me and sometimes she didn’t. Still, people seemed so relieved to hear that she had not totally forgotten who I was.
While it was good that my mom remembered me at times, I wanted to add, “Yeah, but she can’t use the bathroom by herself.” Or, “True, but she has no idea how to get into a car.”
As even more time went by, I had no choice but to tell people that no, my mom did not know who I was. They responded with sympathy and sorrow, many times with actual tears. It broke their hearts to hear this and it broke mine to know there were far worse things than my mom not knowing who I was.
While it was sad that my mom didn’t know who I was, I wanted to add, “Yeah, but she can no longer do anything for herself.“ Or, “True, but she can no longer walk or talk and she just sits in a wheelchair with her eyes closed most of the time.”
There were far worse things about this disease than my mom not knowing who I was. She didn’t even know who she was anymore.
In the end, she was basically just sitting around, waiting to die. Sounds extremely harsh, but it is extremely harsh. This disease is extremely harsh.
If I had one wish for one thing my mom could have had back, it wouldn’t have been for her to remember who I was. That would have been the last thing I’d wish for. She deserved so much more.
Later on when people would ask me if my mom knew who I was, I had a different answer. One that took me many years to learn.
I told them, “No, my mom doesn’t know who I am, but she knows me. She knows my heart and my soul and my love for her. She knows my voice and my presence. She doesn’t know I’m her daughter, Lauren, but she knows that she knows me. She knows I love her and she loves me. She knows she’s safe with me. She knows me on another level. Our bond is unbreakable and undeniable. What we have is so much more important than her knowing my name.”
There are far worse things about Alzheimer’s than my mom not knowing who I was, but there are also far better things.
She knew me.
In a way that no one else ever will.