This blog started on my mother’s birthday…1/23….when my brother and I went to her Alzheimer’s unit to visit.  Something about that moment made me decide to alter my avoidant relationship with him to a connected relationship.

So…four months later he and I are in our mother’s room on Mother’s Day.  The man who lives with me, let’s just call him my husband, is also in attendance.  This is the first Ed/Elizabeth/Mom visit that man has participated in.

When we arrive my mother gushes over Ed.  Even with her addled mind she does not need me to remind her who he is, for he is still her only son…the winner of talent shows, the beloved of clowns, the successful business man.  She is blissfully unaware that he is a human billboard, and doesn’t seem to notice the wheel chair or the incapable hands.  She is so happy to see him it is ridiculous.

After she has said just how thrilled she is to see him for the fiftieth time and has kissed his forehead and cheeks over and over she finally lays back down.  She has been ill lately and all the gushing has taken it out of her.  She notes how tired she is.  I tell the small crew that I had a call two days earlier saying she had been dehydrated and had needed some IV fluids.  She glares at me as if I am a witness against her good character.

I open the bag of Milk Way Minis we brought her as a gift for her big day.  This lessens her glare.  She is often sweet and kind to me when I am with her alone…but when others are in attendance, especially men, she does not seem to like me much.  I hand her an opened Milky Way and she snatches it from me.  Once the soft gooey sweetness hits her tongue she suddenly likes me a little.  She thanks me with a smile, but turns back to Eddie.

I am worried because from the moment we arrived he has said nothing.  He studies her intently as she gushes over him, is annoyed with me, and eats the candy.  His pea brain is churning, and that butter is often rancid.

I glance at the husband who has also noticed Ed’s quiet contemplation.  We exchange worried glances.

Ed inhales deeply…this is of concern because he must think he needs a good deal of oxygen for whatever thought is about to hatch.

“Mom,” he starts.  She doesn’t know to repeat everything he says so he knows she understands, so I begin to repeat his words.

“Mom,” I say.

“Do you know when your birthday is?” he asks.

Oh no he didn’t.  Although we have grilled him about asking her questions he cannot stop himself.  He needs her to be his mother.  He simply cannot handle the demise of her memory.

I look at him then try and kick him. I kick the chair instead and it hurts my toe…bad.

He laughs.  He knows I am trying to shut him up, but he continues on.

“Do you know what day your birthday is?” he asks again.

She understands his question without me translating, but she gets a frantic look on her face because she has no idea when her birthday is.  Her anxiety is painful.

I am just about to give the answer when a stroke of brilliance comes over me.  “Hey Ed, how old is Mom.”

He cuts his eyes to me.  I smile because I know he doesn’t remember.  It has been weeks since I reminded him.  He smiles back.  Check.  He rubs his forehead and inhales a laugh, “I don’t know.”

“Yeah,” I say, “your memory isn’t that good either.”  Check Mate.

“Mom remembers she was born on 1…2….3,” I say.  Her face relaxes as that familiar date finds a perch in her mind.

“That’s right,” she says. “I always remember that”

Ed throws me a look.  “How old is she?”

“Seventy nine,” I say triumphantly.  I know Ed knows he needs to stop asking her questions.  “Where does she live?” I flash-card him.

He does not hesitate, “Family Health West.”

“Yep.”

We have a lovely time the rest of our visit.

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