We were standing at the cash paying for some fun purchases – fluffy blue slippers with sparkly pompoms, a snazzy blue and grey poncho for cool winter evenings, blue plaid pajamas, she likes plaid – Mom may not be able to tell me what she wants or needs, but we still enjoy shopping together. I watch what catches her eye, what she walks towards in the store; she has good taste! And then we talk about whether she wants to bring it home. Unless I get a firm “No” or negative response, I assume a hesitant “Why not?” and since we’re shopping at a discount store, she also enjoys the sense of getting a good deal. “These mittens are only $6, Mom,” I’ll say, “What a bargoon! What have we got to lose?” We were having a good shopping day, and we were heading to a restaurant next for a bite to eat.
An elderly woman came up to Mom, a bit hesitantly.
“Beverly?” she said. My Mom’s eyes widened with recognition and delight, her face creasing into a big smile. It was a woman from the group that Mom had co-founded and presided over in the community for over 30 years. Within minutes, another woman stepped forward. “Is that you, Beverly?” The ladies had just been to the weekly group meeting and had stopped in to the same store for some light shopping.
They were so happy to see Mom and Mom to see them. Love lit up the air inside that little store, as all three women started chattering and doing what only women can do – say everything and nothing all at the same time. I was standing by to answer questions or clear up any confusion, but there was no need. Mom just beamed as they told her how much she was missed and how things just weren’t the same, and how they wished she was still there… oh, it was just an incredibly important moment for my mother, and I can still remember the look on her face, the glow coming from her soul.
After the ladies had stopped hugging and chatting and moved on to do their shopping, Mom turned to the cashier. I was thanking the cashier for her patience, because all of this had interrupted the payment process. Mom leaned over, still beaming, and pulled the woman’s face to hers, planting two kisses on each of her cheeks, and saying in her “acting” voice, “Thank you, you are lovely.”
The woman’s eyes teared up and one hand went up to her heart. She took Mom’s hand with the other and said, “Oh Madame, you touched my heart. You have made my day.”
We left on a cloud of love and affirmation, and I tucked it all away into my unreliable little chest of golden memories. My mother regaining her strong sense of society and sorority, if only for a precious few moments. Communing. Being engaged.
On good days, I trick myself into thinking that it’s just a matter of having more of these days and helping her create more of these moments. And then she’ll have a really bad day, or a string of bad days, like she has recently. And I despair. Because it’s always possible that these days will one day be entirely in the past, as Mom’s Alzheimer’s continues its journey. There’s no way of knowing anything for certain, is there? I honestly can’t say if that’s good or bad. It is what it is.
Finally, and to keep it brief….
In honour of Alzheimer’s Month, and in the spirit of sharing the positive side of life in all ways, I just wanted to share Mom’s really nice super-good-shopping-and-eating-out-with-her-daughter day. Possible only thanks to the team of Angels that are hanging out with Dad while I whisk Mom away (he hates shopping), for whom I am eternally and positively grateful; oh my gosh you gals are amazing.
To all caregivers everywhere, know you are appreciated, valued and loved.