Friday, January 20, 2012
Blog 6: The Early Signs That Something Wasn't Right
Mom forgot to make the mashed potatoes. It was Thanksgiving of 2007, at Mom’s house. We all arrived with our covered dishes, each one appointed ahead of time what we were going to bring. Mom always made a huge bowl of mashed potatoes and they were the best ever. As we started putting all the food out to sit down and eat, I realized there were no potatoes. I said, “Hey, where’s the mashed potatoes?” as my sister shot me a glance, and I took it they already had that discussion. Mom didn’t seem to be bothered by it at all. Normally if she forgot something she would be right on it and apologize and try to fix the situation somehow. That day she could have cared less. At least, that’s what it appeared to us. We blew it off, so what if there weren’t potatoes, we had so much food. That was the first clue that something could be wrong, but we didn’t realize it until later.
That Thanksgiving seemed a bit unorganized from the start. Something seemed out of kilter but I just figured it was because our family never really was organized when it came to big family meals and gatherings. Also, the house was too small for our very large family. If everyone was there, we would have about 35 people present and the house would be bursting at the seams. There never was enough seating, and if someone got up, they lost their spot unless they could bribe a child to hold it for them. That’s just the way it was.
In the next year Mom seemed to hide away in her house a lot. She would often miss going to someone’s birthday party or showing up for a holiday gathering. She frequently wouldn’t answer the phone and she sometimes wouldn’t open the door when we came over. If she did open the door, there were times she wouldn’t let me come in. She would say she’s not feeling well, she’s laying down, or she’s just getting ready to leave to go to the store. One time she said she was getting ready to go to the store and I asked her if I could go with her. She said no. She wouldn't let me come in, even for a minute. I left and drove up the street to see if she was really going to leave. She didn’t. Those things she did would hurt my feelings. I didn’t understand what was going on and why she would shut us out. My sisters said the same things happened to them. We were starting to worry that she was having depression issues.
Just a few years prior, in June of 2005, my mom’s husband Bob had died of Alzheimer’s. Mom cared for him up until the very end. The strange thing is, we didn’t really notice his illness. He mostly just sat in the same place on the couch and watched TV. Mom rarely talked about it. She did say that he would get up during the night and lash out and get out of bed and yell into the air. She was frightened he might hurt her so she went upstairs to sleep. When it got to the point that she couldn’t do it anymore, she placed him in a nursing home, where he quickly went downhill and passed away just three weeks later. I assumed mom was still grieving, and that she was probably depressed. She was alone again, and maybe this was a temporary state she was going through, just trying to adjust to life without her husband of 19 years. I don’t think any of us girls realized how hard it must have been for Mom to care for her husband with Alzheimer’s.
Mom would say, "If that ever happens to me you can stick me in front of a Mac truck because I don't want to live like that."
We would say, "Of course that isn't going to happen to you, Mom!"