As I was knocking about the internet the other day I found an online version of a magazine article, titled “Never Alone,” that my mother got published back in 2003. The article is about how Mom’s faith in God and a big black dog comforted her when she was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the young age of 60.
According to the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center, “Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.” That’s the clinical definition. It takes on a much more personal tone when it strikes someone in your family. It slowly takes away who that person is before it takes their life.
Rereading her article now, seven years after it was published, is like a window into the past for me. I can once again see the woman I once knew, expressing the thoughts and fears that she can no longer fully articulate.
Mom wrote: “Tank sprang out the door and galloped down the road. Eighty solid pounds of black Labrador retriever, he certainly lived up to his name. He loved barreling through our 160 acres. I used to enjoy it too, but not lately. Not since I heard the word Alzheimer’s. ‘You seem to be showing some early signs,’ the neurologist had told me, after a checkup with my family doctor and a battery of tests, including a brain scan. […]
“I remembered the flyer I’d picked up from an Alzheimer’s support group. It said that I should get an ID bracelet with my name, address and phone number. More than likely I’d end up forgetting who I was and where I lived. The thought horrified me. I was going to lose myself, remembering nothing and nobody. Would I eventually forget who God was? Lord, I can’t bear the idea of being so utterly alone. Please stay with me.
“’Tank!’ I called. No sign of our big black Lab. Would I forget him too? ‘Here, boy!’ I called. Tank careened out of the woods. The dog was so big that when he stood on his hind legs his paws rested on my shoulders. Still, he was one of the most gentle creatures I’d ever known. Tank circled me then dashed back into the trees, chasing something I couldn’t see. I’m being chased too, I thought. To a place where no one will be able to reach me.”
Medicine has slowed it somewhat, but the predator that stalks my mother is closing in swiftly now. She has difficulty now with common tasks that my four-year-old takes for granted. My words, my guns, even my love for my mother are all powerless against this killer.
Mom is a good, hard-working, church-going woman, totally undeserving of being slowly stripped of a lifetime of memories, then of life itself. I often use this blog to impotently speak out against injustice. If you’re listening God, I’m speaking out now.
If anyone else has some time, please read the short article by my mom, Judy Cashner, here.