Yesterday was my mother’s 77th birthday. Working a full day, I could not visit, but my friend Laurie was with her, and brought both a cake and her radiant presence. Laurie has been helping to care for my mother ever since I moved her to Marin county at the beginning of 2009, and she has been a delightful and steady source of support.
Penny’s Alzheimer’s is so severe now that she cannot do anything without help. She hasn’t recognized me in well over a year, she needs to be fed and bathed and dressed and moved. She no longer smiles. She is speaking a bit, but not making any sense. She uses a hospital bed and a wheelchair, and I have the support of Hospice By The Bay, a fine organization that has been helping to care for her the last couple of months. She is gradually losing weight, although her health seems to be fine.
The memory care facility where she lives, Alma Via of San Rafael, is as nice a facility as I’ve ever seen. The caregivers are attentive, there is singing and music and other activities, the food is pretty good. Penny seems as happy as she could be, but there is really no way to tell.
So the pattern of loss in my life continues, first Nancy, then her father Dick Jones in early February, and gradually now, my mother. My mother has been going away a little at a time for five years now, as this terrible disease runs its course. One book described it as “the long slow good-bye”, and I cannot disagree.
And her caregivers are radiant, thoughtful and hard-working. She is loved, not only by me, but by the people around her. I can only manage her medical care and her finances, and wait.