Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. For the past two years on this day, I’ve been knitting from sun-up to sundown to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s Disease in honor of my mother who passed away after a long decline with this illness.
This year, however, I’m really busy with volunteering as president of our lake association and this is the season where all the planning (or sometimes the lack of planning) comes to fruition and I have to take the morning to accomplish some lake tasks – register our DASH (pontoon boat for suction harvesting invasive milfoil) boat, pick up some plastic boxes to store papers so they won’t be eaten by mice in storage, etc.) And I have a couple of phone calls to make as well. By the time I actually get to sit down to knit, it will be noon at the earliest – and I was out of the house before 9am.
But as I knit today, I’ll be thinking about my mother and the disease that she so feared as a younger woman. I remember her saying things like, “I must be getting Alzheimer’s,” when she forgot something. If there’s a reality of manifesting your own destiny, then I’d say my mother did just that. She was forgetting things that mattered by the time my children we in elementary school and she was in her mid-sixties. My age. She forgot her purse when we went to the grocery store, she forgot to take the emergency brake off when she was driving the car, she forgot that she’d already mixed the mayonnaise mixture for potato salad. She couldn’t organize things like the grocery list and shopping for groceries so she said that there was enough even though there wasn’t. She forgot how to feed her cat and would stand in the middle of her kitchen with a can of cat food and couldn’t figure out what else she needed to get the food to the cat. She forgot how to make coffee in her coffee pot so she would walk to the local restaurant for her coffee and say that she liked the walk in the morning. She left her purse at the muffin shop, and the jewelry store, and forgot it when she went to the gas station. The list is lengthy. She forgot so much that we couldn’t leave her alone with the grandchildren and that was very hurtful. We had to take away her keys to the car eventually and hire people to help her and care for her. And eventually we had to find her a home in an assisted living care home. None of us enjoyed any of that.
And then mom forgot who we were.
She lived for ten years after her diagnosis. Watching our mother and grandmother fade away was so sad. The kids didn’t want to see her at the end, preferring to remember her as the vibrant, active, fun, happy grandmother. She became agitated and tearful, she couldn’t speak and finally she was bedridden, curled in fetal position, hands atrophied, gaunt, empty-eyed. She passed away in the fall of 2008. She was 76 years old.
I’ll knit today for my mother and in hopes that a cure will be found so that families and victims of this horrid disease don’t have to experience it as we did. And I’ll have a bourbon old fashioned cocktail tonight in her memory. My mother and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye but she loved me and she adored my children and I wish she could see them today. She’s missed so much and we have missed her, too. Cheers to you, Mom. I hope you can see how great your family has grown and continues to grow. We are all here because of you (and some help from Dad, too.)