My Mom was placed in a long term care unit with Alzhiemer's. It is a cruel disease.
I imagine the windows of her brain;
stained glass, crayon colored panes.
Growing up; delicate pink, candy innocent,
then ruby red rose romance;
bloody crimson with childbirth.
For many years, a life shared.
To nurture, help, care for a beloved family.
We fracture, tattoo, test and weather.
Question, fight, love and admire.
Then varnish, stain and seal what remains.
The doors in a cluttered, shattered mind
exist for protection, hopefully a holy kind.
This heinous disorder opens cloistered space,
fragile pieces fall apart, blowing wildly.
Confusion scattered in the wind.
Memories collide, what fits where,
hats on shoes, multicolored cobwebs,
a projection of thoughts run berserk.
A kaleidoscope of life can not rest.
Photos spill; leaves caught in a storm, lost forever.
This is a lady. Her mouth spoke with pearls.
But this brain is a sailor with dirty slander.
Imagine video priest and neighbor nights.
Her hazel eyes blaze with truth and lost trust.
Do not comfort. Her frail fists crave a fight.
When her mind fills to a point of capacity,
she seeks a protective shell and retreats.
Cushioned womb, pot of tea, quiet library
bar the door, rest earned, hang a "Closed" sign.
I received a call from the nursing home that my Mother's diamond cluster ring was missing. The staff claimed they had hunted through the linens, looked around her room and through her clothes.
I wasn’t angry at anyone but myself. I should have removed all three rings when she was admitted. At that time I couldn’t have taken them from her without a screaming cat fight.
How can I blame her? It was like taking Dad away all over again. She had very few personal things left. This ring had diamonds around the original engagement diamond in a dinner setting. It was unique and lovely. Her rings received many compliments.
I knew that my Grandmother’s black sapphire and Mom’s diamond wedding band had to be taken before they disappeared also. Her hands had alternated between being swollen or very thin due to body fluid shifts. Her Mother’s black sapphire was unusual. It was sentimental and an antique.
Two weeks ago, the sapphire ring had mysteriously disappeared. I had noticed it was gone when I visited. It had been three days since I had been there so it could be long gone. We looked everywhere; under the bed and through closets and clothes.
I'd like to think it was a whisper from God. Something told me to look under the wheel of her bed. There it lay stuck by the wheel with the dust bunnies.
I had tried to take the rings then and Mom kicked me in the shin. She was feisty normally but the Alzheimer's made her much worse.
“You will get them when I am gone,” she had told me many times over the years when I had admired them in the light of a restaurant. That was Mom. I was just complimenting her jewelry. She and I were often at odds over the years, mostly when I was a teenager. I had married at the ripe old age of eighteen to "get away from my mother". Now I see that as a pretty ridiculous statement because she had always wanted the best for me
It grieved me to take lotion today and work on Mom’s left ring finger, her wedding band. Her original had a tiny diamond in it. She still had it in a case. I remember the year and store where my Dad had taken her to pick it out this beautiful ring. It was lovely. There were five large quality diamonds across the band. It was 1960.
My Dad was a carpenter and it took a lot of savings to get that for her. She called all her friends as soon as she got home. I remember the tears of joy in her lovely hazel eyes.
Now, I was causing tears of sadness by pulling that same ring off. I promised to lock it up. There are so many special things two people in love share and I hope Mom still had memories of those times.
Now, she just kept repeating “everything is gone”. I don’t know what she thinks anymore, probably that I am being cruel. I didn’t know what to say. Her face crumbles like a heartbroken child.
How would I feel if my wedding ring was suddenly gone and I was confused? Panic, fear, desperation over the loss. I would look all over and since I couldn’t get up; all I could do is wonder.
I would be frightened. Imagining someone dangerous might have stolen it. What if they came back?
She wouldn’t remember it was me.
Would she try to get up and then break a hip?
I feel so responsible, “if only I hadn’t taken the ring".
But she had included in her will that the jewelry would be mine someday.
Even with the Alzheimer’s there are moments of lucidity. She looks at the picture of Dad.
Does she remember him returning from World War II?
I wonder if she thinks about that afternoon when the two of us stood by his bed when he died from cancer with a sweet smile on his face?
The feeling of warmth around his body was so comforting. I believe I felt his spirit move. I feel him around me all the time and it helps. I have to talk to him about Mom. He knew her far better than I.
She speaks about Dad quite a bit. Sometimes telling me they are planning a trip. Often it is after she awakens from a dream. He is also on television occasionally in her world. But sometimes there are mean creatures and bad people chasing her too. She cusses at the TV, saying words I have never heard come out of her mouth before now. You never know.
Driving home, tears are running down my face.
I realize that these rings are material things with sentimental meaning. I know they aren’t love and family. But she doesn't know and it is in her reality that I am attempting to live.
I pray my kiss on her lips and the “I love you," before I left took away some of the hurt.
I placed her pink teddy bear I had brought next to her snow white soft hair. She looked like a radiant angel with a lovely face. She had gone from a raging thunderstorm to a quiet rain within minutes. Mom was still lovely at eighty.
I told Dad all about it on the way home.
By Kathie Stehr