Sunday, October 4, 2009

Birthday Remembered

We came to see you today. A break from your usual, mundane day. You hate living there -- you tell us that every time we see you. You didn't know who I was -- and although your face lit up when you saw her, you couldn't remember your daughter's name. Language has become jumbled, words elusive and life is just confusing. Frustration and exasperation is mapped across your face and every so often, your eyes go vacant, with only the flicker of fear.

Where has everyone gone? Nothing feels familiar and even your clothes are not your own. We remind you of the weddings and gatherings you have enjoyed -- we show you the pictures and the dresses you wore. You smile tentatively and ask, "Did I?"

Your daughter talks to you in her sing song voice, cheerfully reasuring you, recounting happy memories hoping to make a connection, as she methodically picks up your heaped clothes from the bottom of the closet. She reads the tidy stack of birthday cards to you and arranges the brilliant bouquet she brought you. She reminds you that it's your birthday and you look surprised.

Today you are 97 - and although you depend on a walker, you can get around unassisted.  Alzheimer's has a grip on you, and although it has robbed you of memories and blurred your reality, ironically it has softened your heart and made you more expressive and loving. Your daughter clings to every hug, kiss and "I love you"  - the affection for which she has waited a lifetime ...

Joy - that is what you wore on your face when they brought you cake with the single lit candle. You and your daughter made a joint wish and then blew out the flame. You told us you were so thankful that we came, and that the lunch was just wonderful.

When you walked us to the elevator and we explained that you couldn't come with us, you stood, eyes filling up as your disappeared behing the closing elevator doors. Your daughter wiped her eyes and commented that goodbyes are always hard.

We came to see you today - on  your special day. Happy Birthday Nana.
Thank you for reminding me that memories may be forgotten -- but people can't be.


  1. Extrememly poignant post. Can't see the keyboard now for tears...

  2. You write so beautifull Lyn! You truly have a wonderful gift. The video you put together of "Nana's 97" - so touching. You are an inspiration.


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