It is difficult to watch someone you love slowly drift away from you. Sometimes it is Alzheimer's, sometimes it is dementia; whatever the name, it is sad. As time goes by the person you once knew show themselves less often, until they become a stranger, only recognizable visually. The moments you share of memories and calm become less frequent.
Sometimes you find yourself angry, not because of the loved one but because of the illness that causes loss. It is much more difficult than losing someone by sudden death, because you lose them gradually and the loss is daily. You go through it over and over again.
There may be a day you sift through photographs in an attempt to cling to the good memories while facing the present difficult days. You want to have those memories to hold on to and not the ones of the anger, the confusion, the "zoned out" days. Because when it does finally end, you want to mourn the loss of that special person you laughed with, the one you created memories with, the person you loved.
By Rose Lefebvre
She sits silent as I brush her silvery curls,
twining one ‘round my finger.
“Remember when you used to brush
my ringlets each morning, mama?”
There is no response, no acknowledgement.
Her trembling fingers twitch upon the quilt
draped across her bony lap. Those fingers once
moved deftly, in and out, over and over, until
each perfect patch of fabric was united in that quilt;
pieces from G-Nana’s dappled gray Sunday suit,
Gramma Mattie’s distinctive red flowered apron,
Grampa Jim’s green flannel shirt, Mama’s
first dress of pale lavender, the blankets that swaddled
me and my little brother after birth, his
a robin’s egg blue and mine a warm peach.
“Remember when Daddy said an egg would not
break if you squeezed it a certain way?
Its slimy guts shot out hitting Jimmy square in the face!
We all laughed so hard our stomachs ached.”I giggle too long and too loudly.
She softly hums a childhood lullaby, a grin dancing
on her lips like a resting butterfly. Drawing them
from my purse like a magician, I present photographs
carefully chosen for today’s visit. I begin the ritual.
“Look here, mama. This is Jimmy, your grandson,
in his football uniform. He’s getting so big! And this one
is Cindy, taken on her vacation last month
to Branson, Missouri. You would love it there!”
Nothing. No acknowledgements, no response.
Frustrated, I fling the photographs upon her lap,
furiously stomp out of the room. I collapse
upon a chair in the hallway, anger subsiding to shame.
I want my mama back, the woman whose gliding laughter
tangoed in our ears, who would converse with total strangers
at the grocery store and leave as friends,
whose hazel eyes would induce confessions from us.
I can almost hear her off-key voice crooning
lullabies or attempting to harmonize
with a Hank Williams record.
Drying my tears, I return to her. She stares at me,
an inquiring gaze bending her brow.
“Who are you? Do I know you?”