The photo below was taken four years ago at my niece’s first birthday party—a party I helped plan, set up for, and desperately wanted to be a part of instead of just taking care of my mom the whole time.
We knew this would most likely be the only birthday party that my mom would be able to attend and it meant a lot to my sister for her to be there. I wanted to help make that happen, but I also wanted to help my sister plan and set up for the party, especially since my mom wasn’t able to do so.
I got to my sister’s house early to help finish setting up and I was having fun getting everything ready. I felt like a normal person for once—actually being a part of the party instead of just sitting on the sidelines with my mom.
But as soon as my parents arrived, I took over for my dad so that he could enjoy his first granddaughter’s first birthday party. I wanted him to enjoy himself and I didn’t want my mom sitting by herself the whole time. I sat with her the whole time she was there. I fed her chicken nuggets and potato chips—putting each one in her hand each time and guiding her hand to her mouth so she could feed herself. I helped her use the bathroom when she had to go. I took her into a quieter room when the party got too loud.
As much as I wanted to help take care of my mom, I also really resented it. I was annoyed at my dad for leaving me with her while he enjoyed the party. I was annoyed at everyone at the party for being able to enjoy themselves and not have to take care of someone else. I looked around and wondered when it would be my turn to enjoy myself at a family party.
At the same time, I realized it was more important for my dad to get a break from his daily struggle and enjoy his granddaughter’s first birthday party. He was hurting much more than I was. He was suffering much more than I was. And my mom was suffering more than any of us. It wasn’t even an option for her to enjoy her granddaughter’s first birthday party.
And yet, I still felt annoyed and resentful because loving someone with Alzheimer’s is extremely complicated and so are the emotions that come with it.
I write all about it in my new book “When Only Love Remains: Surviving My Mom’s Battle with Early Onset Alzheimer’s.” Available on Amazon July 11th. If you’ve ever struggled with these feelings, you’re going to want to read this book. I don’t hold anything back.
And friends, when this photo popped up today my first thought was how I’d give absolutely anything to go back. As hard as it was, I miss it every single day.