Now, I wear her ring. And the real memories gradually return. Time has become a friend. I don’t remember her with Alzheimer’s all the time now, and I’m glad, because she was so much more. She loved knitting, playing hymns on the piano, shopping, perms, dolls, her grandchildren and ironing. (The last one is hard to believe, but it’s true.) Her fingernails were always polished (usually a light mauve). She made lists. She liked her meat well done. She claimed to hate cooking, even though she was darn good at it. She was a teacher, Avon lady, sister, wife, mother and friend. She was smart, sassy and fun. She laughed full and free.
I think she’d be disappointed if I forgot all those things just because, at the very end of her life, an ugly disease took control.
So, I find it’s the little things, like rhubarb, or the big things, like a high school graduation that summon thoughts of her. I miss her when I’m busy and when I’m bored, when I am alone or in a crowd. When I succeed she’s the first person I wish I could call, ditto that for when I fail. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and for a moment I believe it is her face staring back at me. I realize I am a lot like her.
Sometimes, I know what I want to say, but can’t find the right word, or I’ll enter a room and forget for a moment my purpose for being there, and I contemplate Alzheimer’s and what it might be like to be squeezed by a boa constrictor. I admit, at times like this, I’m a little afraid — but only a little —because I’ve come to understand this is a reality I live with. We all live with. Every family has some sort of Alzheimer’s lurking in the corner. It just may be called something else — like cancer or diabetes or heart disease.