Alzheimer’s is a bitch. If it were a person, she would be the mean girl in high school who fucked with you just because she could. Just when you think that she might start to leave you alone, she steals your best friend. Alzheimer’s has done just that. She has stolen one of my best friends. She has fucked with me so much over the last five years. Just when I think that she might leave me alone for a while, that she might take it easy on me, here she comes strolling into my life like she owns the damn place. I really hate that bitch.
Alzheimer’s is mean and vindictive. She steals a little bit more from you each day, slowly, but surely, until you are left feeling empty and lost. Just when I begin to accept a new loss, Alzheimer’s takes something else. It is a constant cycle of grief with her. She takes something from me. I grieve the loss. At some point, I finally begin to accept it. Then, she takes more. I’m on a continuous roller coaster of grief with her. When will she stop? When will she leave me alone? Only time will tell, I guess.
I thought that I had been doing a pretty good job of accepting my Mom’s Alzheimer’s. I thought that I had come to terms with our reality and that I was doing my best to deal with it. However, I’ve come to realize that it was just part of the roller coaster ride with the mean girl in high school. She strolled into my life again the other night in a dream. Have you ever had a dream about something that just fucked you up for days? That’s how this dream was for me. I dreamt that my Mom was normal again. I dreamt that she didn’t have Alzheimer’s. The dream was as clear as day. I was at my Mom’s house and she told me that she had bought something for me while she was out shopping. I don’t remember what it was that she bought, but my Mom used to do things like that all the time in real life. In the dream, she gave me this surprise gift and I could see how happy it made her to surprise me like that. She went on and on about how I could return it if I didn’t like it, but I knew that I never would. That was pretty much it. It was a short dream, but it felt so real. I woke up feeling sad and missing her. Not necessarily missing her now, but missing her then. Trust me, there’s a difference.
Anyway, I guess that bitch Alzheimer’s decided that it was time to start messing with me again because I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I had that dream last week. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what my life would be like if my Mom didn’t have Alzheimer’s. I honestly can’t even begin to imagine it. In order to imagine it, I would have to be able to remember what she was like before she got Alzheimer’s. But, I honestly can’t remember sometimes. In the last five years, I have lost so much of her that I forget what she was like when she was whole. It’s hard to remember her then because all I see is her now. Without a doubt, the hardest part of Alzheimer’s is missing someone who is standing right in front of you. I want to love the mom I have now and I do, but I miss the mom I had then so, so much. I want to remember her, but it’s hard because she’s still here. She’s just different now. It’s hard to focus on remembering someone when you are still focused on caring for her. In my deepest, darkest, and most selfish moments, I wish that it was just over with already. I wish that I could speed up this whole process so that I could just be left alone with my memories. So that I might actually be able to remember. It is not easy for me to admit that, but it’s true. It’s real.
Since my dream, I have been making a real effort to remember my first mom (the one who raised me). Sometimes, I share these memories with my second mom (my mom now) and she tells me that she doesn’t remember it. I tell her a lot of things about herself and she has a hard time believing them. She can’t believe that she used to do my hair, clean her house, take me places, or even drive a car. How fucked up is that? It makes me sad. It makes me miss her. What I wouldn’t give for just one day with my first mom. What I wouldn’t give to make that bitch Alzheimer’s go away for good. What I wouldn’t give to just be able to remember what life was like before. My Mom can’t remember and I’m starting to forget, but I’ll do my best to remember her.
Growing up, my Mom used to dress me and my sister like twins. She would buy one dress in purple for my sister and one dress in pink for me. I hate pink. She bought us all of the same toys, too. My Mom bought us a present for everything. She bought us presents for Christmas, our birthdays, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, the end of the school year, the beginning of the school year, Halloween, and anything else she could think of. She often bought us gifts for no reason at all. We would come home from school one day to find a new outfit or a toy waiting for us on our beds. She did our hair every morning before school. She would make us sit on the toilet with the lid closed while she combed, pulled, yanked, and curled our hair to perfection. We would scream, “Owwww-aaaaa,” and she would say, “He doesn’t live here anymore!” She woke us up every morning by singing, “Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory! Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory! Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory! Children of Jerie.” She volunteered and did lunch duty at our Catholic school any chance she got. She picked us up from school every day and often took us to get water ice on the way home. She probably went on every field trip from the time I was in Pre-K to Eighth grade. She threw us a birthday party every year and let us have friends over whenever we wanted. She did anything and everything she could to make us happy. And, yes, she spoiled the crap out of us.
In high school, she took us back to school clothes shopping every year since we would no longer be wearing a uniform to school. She had us show her everything we tried on and put on a fashion show for her when we got home. She drove us anywhere and everywhere that we wanted to go, up until we got our driver’s licenses. She took us to get our hair done all the time and let me get highlights. She was there for me every day after school when I would cry about the girls who were harassing me. She listened every time I told her that one of them called me ugly or white trash or said that my boyfriend could do a lot better. She was there for me when they told everyone that I had herpes. She was there for me when they wrote shit about me on the bathroom walls. And, she gave me a high-five when I finally punched one of those girls in the face at lunch time, even though it got me suspended for two days. She let me transfer schools the next year. When I was 17, she found out that I had started smoking within days because she eavesdropped on my phone conversation with a friend. She had no shame in her eavesdropping game.
In college, she took me grocery shopping and did my laundry every time I came home. She sent me money all the time, even though she probably knew that I was spending it all on booze. She came up to my school and took me and my friends out to lunch. She called me all the time when I was in class, even though I had printed out my schedule for her. She left me voice mails all the time, even though I told her not to. My sophomore year, she drove up to school, picked me up, took me home, and made me go vote. She didn’t care that I had strep throat at the time. She told me that I ruined Christmas when I got a citation for underage drinking the night before I went home for winter break. When my driver’s license got suspended as a result of that citation, she drove me everywhere again like she did before I turned 16. She paid all of my speeding and parking tickets and she always covered my bank fines when I overdrew on my account, which was a lot. She hated that I drank and partied so much, but she still answered the phone at 2am when I called her drunk and upset about my grandfather, who had recently passed away. She helped me move into and out of my dorm room every year. She helped me paint my room in the sorority house my senior year. And, she never complained about it once.
After college, she supported my dream of becoming a police officer and was there for me every step of the way. She understood when I didn’t call her for a while because I was busy and worked different shifts. She didn’t say anything when I practically moved in with my now-husband after our first date. She helped me find an apartment and stuff to go in it when I decided that I needed a break from living with my now-husband. Then, she helped me move back in with my now-husband when I decided that I was ready to do so. In my adult life, she probably helped me move about five times. She let me live my life the way I wanted to and she still supported me when it didn’t work out. She still bought me gifts for any and every holiday she could think of. She still bought me gifts for no reason at all. One St. Patrick’s Day, she made a big deal of having us all over to cook ham and cabbage to celebrate. She bought St. Patrick’s Day decorations, plates, cups, and napkins. She bought us each a St. Patrick’s Day mug. She hated to cook and no one even liked ham and cabbage, so we all made fun of her a little bit. It makes me cry to think about it now. If I had known then what I know now, I would have eaten seconds and thirds without saying a word. What I wouldn’t give for her to make me ham and cabbage now. I would eat it every day.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. These memories are like my middle finger to Alzheimer’s. Just like that mean girl in high school, she’ll always come back to fuck with me some more. But, I’ll always be here to punch her in the face and my Mom will be waiting to give me a high-five. In case you haven’t realized it yet, I have a pretty cool mom. She was cool then and she’s still cool now. She’s still my homegirl. Alzheimer’s can’t take that away from us. My Mom might not be able to remember anymore, but that’s ok. She might not be able to fight for herself, but that’s ok, too. I’ll remember for the both of us and I’ll fight until the end. I’ll fight by remembering. Alzheimer’s is a mean girl, but you can’t let the mean girls win.