Alzheimer’s in Photos

To welcome Nana, Charlotte made a giant sign, threw handmade confetti, and made personalized napkins (!) for the four big kids.

To welcome Nana, Charlotte made a giant sign, threw handmade confetti, and made personalized napkins (!).

Charlotte leads Nana through the Botanic Garden.

Charlotte leads Nana through the Botanic Garden. I had to shoo them up to that path, both were tentative about leaving me on the lower road. (Azaleas were just past their peak and beginning to drop their petals. Roses were just starting to bloom.)

There are still moments where it's unclear whether I'm seeing Alzheimer's or just some weird thing Mom would do. This is one. No idea what's happening here or how to account for it.

There are still moments where I’m not sure whether I’m seeing Alzheimer’s or just some weird thing Mom would do. This is one. No idea what’s happening here or why.

Sorry Facebook, your garbage notifications make my mom feel like an idiot. Every chance I got, I cleared all notifications from Mom's lock screen. The phone is deeply confounding to Mom and still incredibly important — it has all the pictures of everyone she knows on it.

Sorry Facebook, your garbage engagement notifications make my mom feel like an idiot. Every chance I got, I cleared all notifications from Mom’s lock screen. The phone is deeply confounding to Mom and still incredibly important — it has pictures of everyone she knows on it. For that reason alone, it’s worth the trouble.

We've lived here for 10 years now, and Mom has insisted on doing our dishes every time she's visited. Given her noticeable decline in other areas, I expected that this would be the visit where that habit faded away. But no! It takes her about an hour to do the dishes and she doesn't try to them away, but she she still has that Iowan instinct to help and, in this case it turns out, the ability.

Mom has insisted on doing our dishes every time she’s come to visit in NYC. I expected that this was the visit where that habit disappeared, but no. It takes her about an hour and she doesn’t try to put the dishes away, but she does them and I was heartened to see that she still had that ability.

Mom can do dishes but she can no longer brush her hair without running into problems.

Mom can do dishes but she can no longer brush her hair without running into problems.

There were good days and bad days. We quickly understood this to be a sign of a Bad Day: Mom would wake early, make her bed, and then go back to sleep. In this behavior I saw an echo of her pre-Alzheimer's life. At her most stressed, post-divorce and at the height of her prowess as an elementary school principal, she'd talk about how she'd wake up at 3 in the morning just to work, then fall back to sleep for a bit before awakening again and going to work.

There were good days and bad days. We quickly understood this to be a sign of a Bad Day: Mom would wake early, make her bed, and then go back to sleep. In this behavior I saw an echo of her pre-Alzheimer’s life. At her most stressed, post-divorce and at the height of her career as an elementary school principal, she’d wake up at 3 in the morning. Unable to sleep, she’d work. Eventually, she would fall back to sleep for a bit before waking up for good and heading to school.

Charlotte hugging Nana goodbye while she does dishes, the night before our flight back to Iowa. C cried.

Charlotte hugging Nana goodbye while she does dishes, the night before our flight back to Iowa. C cried.

Flying Mom back home.

Flying Mom back home.

5 Responses to Alzheimer’s in Photos

  1. Olivia says:

    Beautiful and heartbreaking photos, Matt. There’s something special in the way of being with young children, especially babies. You don’t need to know who’s president or what day of the week it is. Just being present and joyful is enough.

    • Maghie says:

      That’s exactly where the comfort was! With Wilder, it didn’t matter if you could remember all the words to a song, and it didn’t matter if you could remember what you’d done a minute before. It was just all about here and now, not what had happened already or what was coming up. I found myself taking it as a total zen lesson over and over.

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