49: Life on 24th Street

49: Life on 24th Street

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer's & Other Dementias

Life on 24th Street

Although it’s difficult today to see beyond the sorrow,
May looking back in memory help comfort you tomorrow.

~Author Unknown

I was going through an old box the other day when I ran across an envelope full of coupons. My mother had written notes on the back of the envelope.

“Call piano movers,” one said. Another described life on our old street: “The sound of the wind in winter as it gusts and swishes through the enormously tall fir tree, with an echo as the garage door occasionally sucks air under it. The utter peace as I pull into our vast secluded driveway — the promise of privacy; of space to walk within the house and in the gracious calm yard.”

Yet another, now distinct note: “Something urges me to move, it’s time, but I don’t quite understand why, but I feel like I need to follow the urge.”

“Goodbye Dear Home. 11-29-93”

Two months later my mom moved out of our family home and began a new life she was unsure about.

My mom had turned forty-nine six days before 11-29-93. Did she know something was happening to her? That something was awry? She described the strange changes in herself as an urge. Was it an urge for a new beginning? Or was it an urge for someone or something to recreate the calm she had known before something started to go awry inside her brain?

Not long after that move, my mom started doing odd things — scribbling notes on Post-its, forgetting appointments, having trouble balancing the checkbook and paying bills on time, and making mistakes at the office.

Now, ten years later, when I run into people from the old neighborhood they ask how my mom is doing. They think I will say she fell in love again after losing my beloved father — she at forty-one, he at forty-five. They think I will say something about how she spends her time playing tennis like she did in the old days, or enjoying time with her grandchildren.

But my response only deepens their sadness for my mom. That she no longer recognizes her children or her brothers and sisters. That she never knew all her grandchildren, or her daughter-in-law. I say that we are happy for the great care she gets in her adult family home.

This past Tuesday my mom went into the hospital after another seizure. We are discovering the wear and tear that Alzheimer’s has inflicted on her once muscular body, and she is experiencing the start of kidney and liver failure.

This past Thursday I prayed to God. I asked him to take care of my mother. To make the pain stop. She does not deserve this. She is the woman who cared for a two-year-old and newborn twins at the same time. The woman who raised three teenagers as a widow. The woman who won round-robin tournaments, chaired the board of a country club, and ran a business when the boss had to leave town. She is the woman who appreciated what was given to her in life, including the gracious calm moments of peace.

She deserves this peace.

My mother, just shy of fifty-nine years old, finally gave in to the assurances of God and her children that everything would be okay. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of her, and miss her terribly. And I am comforted knowing she found her calm and peaceful place once again.

~Susie Van Den Ameele

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