Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Looking For My Mother

The first year that I began visiting her she still knew who I was. She spoke to me by name and knew the names of my husband and children.

The second year she still knew my name but often called me by my sister's name.

The third year she recognized me as someone she knew and was excited when I showed up for a visit.

Now I am another face in the crowd. Just someone to talk to but not anyone she knows from her former life.

I have watched my Mother progress in her journey with Alzheimer's. I have watched as more recent events have faded in her memory and she could only remember things from her childhood. I have seen other people who are in a much more advanced stage of the disease and I know where it's going to take my Mom unless God intervenes first. 

I know these things but something inside of me still fights to find my Mom somewhere in that body. My head knows it's not possible but my heart won't quit hoping.

During my last visit, in my struggle to find my Mother, I ran through the same set of questions that I often ask. I asked her about some of her favorite places to fish during her lifetime. I asked about picking cotton when she was a young girl. I tried to talk about people or places that she once loved. 

Our conversation was full of nonsense. Her answers were garbled with a few words that made sense, but most things were foreign even to me. She occasionally pulled out a name or a place that surprised me. But for the most part there was no evidence of my Mom. There was no evidence of her remembering her life at any stage. And yet I continued to search. I continued to have hope that there was something in there, something that resembled who I knew she had been.

Then I began to sing to her. And that reminded me that I had my phone with me and in my music list were some songs she would know. So I started to play songs and sing. At first she wasn't paying much attention, but soon I caught her humming the melodies. Before long she was trying to sing a few words that came out more like just sounds. The next thing I knew, she was singing right along with Merle, "Mama tried, mama tried!"

And for just a couple of minutes, I found my Mom. All of my searching was answered by a 47 year old song. 

Running Up The Stairs

When we're in the U.S., we live in my mother-in-law's basement. Recently I caught myself running up the stairs to the first floor. I wasn't in a hurry and I had nowhere to be. But I was running. I am 52 years old and I realized that I run up the stairs often. I began thinking deeply about this; much deeper than I probably should have.

I thought back to when my mother-in-law was my age and realized I had never seen her run up the stairs. At any age. I don't think I've ever seen my own mom run up the stairs.

In our language school in Guatemala my teacher and I met on the roof for class. I had to climb 2 sets of narrow stairs to get to the roof. Not only did I often run up those stairs, I almost always ran down them. I usually did it in some methodical pattern. In my head it sounded something like "ba-bump-bump-bump" as I tackled the stairs in groups of four, barely touching each step before bouncing to the one below.

So why do I run? Is it just because I can? Maybe.

Do my actions reflect that in my heart I still think I am 17 years old? Maybe.

I have no clue why I run up the stairs but I've decided I am going to keep doing it for as long as I possibly can. It keeps me young mentally and reminds me that my body still works the way it should.

If your body is still agile enough to navigate the stairs at a quick pace, I encourage you stay young at heart and race right up!