A kaleidoscope in her head

“Someone stole my cane,” exclaimed my mother over the phone not too long ago. “Why would anyone steal from me, an old lady?”

“Where were you?” I asked.

“In the store. I can’t remember which one,” she responded. “I put it in the shopping cart and when I left, it was gone. Someone took it out of the cart.”

I was certain the cane wasn’t stolen, but that she left it somewhere. It has happened before. I didn’t remind her because it would only make her more agitated.

My mother has early Alzheimer’s disease, and according to the Alzheimer’s Association, suspicion is a classic behavior. You’re not supposed to argue or try to convince otherwise.

The next day we went to the medical supply store and I bought Mom two new canes. The man behind the counter adjusted them to her height, and she didn’t skip a beat as she grasped one in her right hand, leaned into it, and sprinted toward the door.

We spent the next two hours taking a leisurely Sunday drive on a beautiful Thursday afternoon.

Back home, I placed one cane on the table beside her chair and put the other in the back of the closet for safekeeping. A few moments later, Mom glanced over at the cane I left out and remarked, “Oh, there’s my missing cane.”

I froze and felt a familiar clutching in my gut. Instead of correcting her, I simply said, “Thank goodness.”

How can it be that in the previous two hours, as we drove through the countryside and down to the beach, she seemed perfectly lucid? We chatted, she told stories (yes, ones I’d heard a billion times before), recalled facts both old and current, thanked me profusely for the delightful afternoon, and mentioned several of the sights we had seen on our drive. Surely, someone with dementia couldn’t communicate so coherently.

In and out of reality a sad truth about this insidious condition and one that is nearly impossible for my own brain to grasp. I can only imagine how it must feel to my mother, for she clearly struggles to make sense of her confused state of mind. She recently told someone that, especially at night when she closes her eyes, it seems as if she has a kaleidoscope in her head.

When I close my eyes at night I often worry about what lies ahead for my mother. But mostly, I think about how grateful I am for the way her eyes twinkle and her face lights up with love every time we are together. I can’t bear the thought of losing those moments.

Diane Atwood worries about what lies ahead for her mother, Beverly Swett, who has early Alzheimer’s disease.    

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