Memory Flash- The amazing moments of clarity in between confusion


The other day my son, husband and I went over to Mom's house. It's part of our "new" plan, to go over there together, in the hopes that it will keep me from getting so upset when I am there. It's the little things that feel like punches to the soul; the way she looks when we arrive sometimes, the state of the apartment, the piles of paper. waiting for someone to deal with them. The other day she looked at me holding my niece and said "You are a wonderful Mom." It was such an innocent, kind comment. And I almost screamed out loud. "This is not my daughter! Don't you know that?" (No.)

But on this day, we brought over Greek food for dinner. We all love it and I know that Mom does too. We've gotten to the point when we bring food over that we just make her a plate, instead of having that moment where she is unsure of what to eat, or maybe what is even food. So I piled up her plate full of veggies (just in case someone is right about the MIND diet) and we sat and talked about our days. After a few minutes, my son ran away to play trains and then I brought out dessert- rice pudding and baklava. (By the way, if you want to help your child like going to visit their grandparents, rotate the toys at the grandparents house to some of their favorite things, things they don't have at home. So even if you need to spend an hour doing paperwork with your parent, your child is entertained and has a good time. More importantly, he associates Grandma with fun.)


Mom ate some of the baklava and said she didn't like it. Which I remembered later, that she had always said that. But then she ate the rice pudding and the effect was immediate. She looked up and stared at me. It was if to say "I know this! THIS I remember!". She said, "My mom used to make this. I really like this. My Mom always made it." And she is right, her Mom did always make it. She made it just like this, with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top. And for that moment, Alzheimer's is not at our table. We are sharing a memory together. Me, with the full knowing that she gets it, she is isn't just smiling along, or trying to make light conversation. She REMEMBERS. She smiles across the table at me and just for that moment she is back. She is my Mom, telling me a memory, some history of my childhood, just like she used to. It feels like someone breathed light back in, or cleared away the gunk that gets between her memory and what is able to convey. And it is wonderfully heartbreaking, just that brief moment. 

I miss that Mom a lot. I miss the one that would come home late from a day at work as a principal of an elementary school and immediately get "three crackers" (always three), some cheese and a glass of wine. She would sit down on the couch with my Dad and I, kick off her shoes and put her feet up. She rarely talked about her day, usually just wanted to know about ours.  But she was/is smart, accomplished, independent.  I never saw her sick then. So much of that picture is gone. Someone else lives in that house where she used to kick up her feet. We sold the couch. She left that job after Dad got sick. Dad is gone. 

She used to go to the grocery store before my husband and I would visit and buy him all of the foods he loved- usually sorbet, ice cream or cookies. He reminds me of this when we have to drive her to appointments, help her pick outfits or find her purse/wallet/money again. Because my memory is suffering also. As the days and months go by, the Mom that I knew is being erased by this new Mom. And I don't ever want to forget that this is the disease talking and that my Mom is sick. And if she wasn't sick, she would still be getting our favorite foods, and she would know which children are mine. She would REMEMBER. 

Patricia Cruz