UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Spirit Story

Moments with Mom

By Monica Plant


I had a conversation with a barista at a local café, which eventually came around to the topic of Alzheimer’s disease. I told him that I was living with, and caring for, my mom who has the disease. His reply was not untypical: “It must be really hard and painful.” I surprised myself with my reply.

Yes, losing parts of Mom has been painful. But I also wonder if those parts — playing competitive tennis, loving jazz — were just window dressing anyway. Were they really Mom? Who’s to say that what she’s getting pared down to as she makes her way through this disease isn’t really her at her most essential? The barista was taken aback.

The next day at my Alzheimer’s support group, and later in conversation with a friend, my thinking deepened: without Mom’s “window dressing” and without the history of how I have responded to it, I am more free to enter the moment with her. To Mom, the moment is all there is. There’s little or no past (not even five minutes ago), and certainly no future worth worrying about. Mom may not remember that a neighbour came by to offer some flowers this morning or that tonight her son is coming to wheel her around a local park. But when she’s in those moments, they are their own delicacies. She delights in them, and her perpetual invitation is: come and share this moment with me.

After my dad died a year and a half ago, my ability to share in those moments expanded considerably. Perhaps it is a blessing of Alzheimer’s that Mom’s grief didn’t seem heavy or enduring. She just seemed to start anew.

She soon began holding court on the front porch. Dog walkers started bringing their friendly, slobbering charges up for a visit; neighbours or friends from church would drop by. When the weather is disagreeable, she sits inside in her big easy chair at the window and becomes a one-person Neighbourhood Watch.

Tending to Mom is an opportunity to share these simple and rich moments, and to recognize the massive gift they offer. Getting under a blanket together and watching a storm, savouring the brilliance of a quiet summer afternoon on the veranda — caregiving has become my spiritual practice, and Mom my spiritual guru.

The moments aren’t always happy. One day, Mom was sobbing as she returned from her day program. I plied her with comfort (hugs, blankets, heat packs, tea) and listened to her. “Everything’s broken,” was how she responded to my question about what was wrong. “Why hadn’t anyone told me about Dad? When did he die?” Evidently, Mom had been following one of the men around, thinking it was Dad, and had been confused by his rebuffs.

Do I think that everyone who tends to someone with Alzheimer’s experiences the disease as I do? Absolutely not. If Mom was hitting me or was angry or confrontational, I might not be writing this, or writing about it this way.

Back to the barista — mention Alzheimer’s, and most of the time it’s with a heaviness, a sadness. No question, there is that experience. But, at least for me, that’s not all there is. Alzheimer’s has given Mom and me a treasury of moments. I’m grateful to continue to say yes to them.

Monica Plant is a writer and sculptor in Hamilton.



Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image

Society

July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots

World

June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.

Justice

June 2017

Undocumented

by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.

World

June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.

Society

April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Society

March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image