Examining the puzzle pieces of life



The wee hours of the morning lend clarity to my tangled mind. The darkness offers a quiet refuge. I watch my mother struggle with Alzheimer’s, and it engages perspective. Namely, I ponder the role I play in aiding her. The “where I’m going” view remains unknown for each of us. I can only hope that the “where I’m going” aspect will be as kind to my mother and me as possible. Every day I pray for peace for myself to accept the inevitable, and I pray for comfort for Mom to endure where her journey takes her. When my mother wins the fight, and Alzheimer’s no longer holds her captive, I will celebrate her victory. I know and accept that I have to. I have no choice. I hope I can remember the person Mom was before Alzheimer’s stole her from me.
Most days, I feel like I am watching Mom from a thousand miles away. I see her searching for the missing puzzle pieces of her life. A day or so ago, I visited Mom. I held her hand, as I always do, while we walked the hallway. A puzzle, serene landscape with vibrant colors, caught Mom’s attention when we entered her facility’s activity room.
Mom stopped, studied it, and said, “It’s missing a piece.”
I looked at her, awed that she noticed.
She pointed. “See?”
“I do,” I said.
The moment was short-lived, though. Mom lost interest and looked away. It’s hard for her to stay focused on anything. In November 2018, Mom’s neuropsychologist said that her attention span was “about a minute, and it will gradually get worse.” I will never forget his diagnosis and his words. Today, her attention span is much less.
Over the past ten months, Mom’s reality runs on the fast track of decline. The puzzle pieces, linking her here and now, are like abstract muted watercolors. There is no defined reasoning for what she knows or understands. The puzzle pieces that link her yesterday’s, loosely connected. While they (the medical professionals and scientists) lend that each Alzheimer’s case is unique, they suggest a similar trajectory for most. Mom’s world grows smaller and smaller, daily. Our conversations, simplistic and exhausting. I answer her questions; I ask her questions. I know my efforts are in vain, but I’m hopeful, nonetheless.
I also see Mom’s physical appearance waining. She’s frailer; her gait, unsteady; and, her skin, thinner and paler. Her dark brown eyes now hold subtle cloudiness. A few short years ago, they were clear and bright. All in all, more missing puzzle pieces of the woman I call Mom.
I miss my mother; nothing hurts more than grieving the loss of a loved one who is still living. As I continue on the “long good-bye” journey with my mother, I sometimes wonder if the slow loss of her will make it easier to let her go? Will I feel guilty and wonder if I could have done more? Will I be relieved that she is no longer suffering?
I will let you know.

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