It's been a LONG time since I have posted...but since I am taking a creative writing class, I thought I would share my assignment with you...in honors of Alzheimer's month, the walk on Saturday, and my mother...
We are made up of many blocks, blocks of color, of personality, of physical features. Blocks of memories who create who we are, moments of bliss that change the way we look at the world. These blocks define us as a person. We are known by these blocks. Whether we are the person known for having a huge heart, an attitude of complete happiness, or strong and determined; it is who we are. This was created for the Alzheimer’s Project by Ria Hills who wanted to express that even though this disease takes away our loved ones, the essence of who they are is still alive behind the blocks that have distorted our view of them. This movement to keep loving our family members and visiting them if in a home is crucial to their well being. That even though Alzheimer patients don’t know who you are anymore or whether they would remember a visit, loving them, like babies, keeps them alive.
This picture reminds me of my mother and how her blocks made her a woman who was known for her hospitality, her generosity, and enthusiasm for life. She was everybody’s friend, even if you didn’t think you needed one. She was the first one to call and be by your side, rain or shine, she was the one to count on, the cornerstone.
“Mom, why are you late?” I would ask often as she would come watch my kids while I went to work.
“I’m sorry koristi mou (my daughter in Greek), I got lost,” she would say in shame as she put her hand over her face. Like the picture, I feel this is a common reaction of Alzheimer’s patients in the beginning stages as they realize that they have a disease that slowly traps them in their own body, unable to express or function in the life they’ve been living.
As the years went by, the blocks were slowly rearranging. The ones that made her who she was were creating someone my family and I didn’t recognize anymore. Slowly the things she would do every day soon became impossible to conceive. Her eyes seemed lost, her generosity confused. She was there, Stella was there, but not the Stella we all called mother, wife, or yiayia (grandmother in Greek). She was now there as someone who needed us more than we could ever imagine.
“Mom, I’m here to pick you up. Are you ready? Let’s go.” My sister and I would say everyday as we would start our day making sure we took care of mom. She would always fight us, as she was losing her freedom; freedom to go wherever she wanted to go and do whatever she wanted to do. Now we picked her up every day and made sure she was safe, made sure she would eat, made sure she was dressed. And her hand would cover her face in frustration and shame.
“But I want to go home,” mom would say in the afternoon in anger. “Please let me go home!” she would demand with her hand over her face once again. She would sob in frustration as we kept her with us seemingly against her will.
“Mom, you cannot be left alone anymore. We have to be with you now, just relax and hangout with us. Dad will be home soon.” It never eased her spirit. She was broken, realizing that something was wrong, something was not right. And we would sit together, scared of what was to come and saddened at the loss we were all experiencing. This is not how life should be. She was too young to go through all this. It was not fair, I would always say. And as this work above is labeled “Fractured” that is exactly how we began to see our mother. Fractured, but daily getting worse, and unable to be fixed. I cried daily with my hands over my face as I felt her blocks rearranging her being.
“Mom? Mom?” we would call out, wondering where she had wondered off to now. In panic we would search our neighborhoods, our homes, and yards. In aggravation we would drop what we were doing to find her. We’d always find her sitting in a corner, crying, just wanting to go home.
“I was trying to go home koritsia (daughter in Greek), but I can’t find my way! I have dinner to make and a kitchen to clean” she would cry, face hiding behind her hand. She would look at us scared and frustrated at her own mind, unable to let her be who she was.
I see my mother every day; she is still with me here on earth. I hug her now as she used to hug me as a child. Her body so frail, her demeanor so lost. Her eyes light up, not because she knows my name, but because she recognizes my face in some way. She doesn’t fight us anymore to go home; she is home; all day, every day. My sister and I cannot care for her like we used to, she now needs fulltime care. My father has devoted his life to taking care of her at home. She is where she always wanted to be by the afternoon, home.
Although I cannot see her the way she was before the blocks got muddled, like this picture her essence is still there, but like this picture she is not who she was completely. She cannot come to my home and help me raise my family as she once did; she cannot call me and tell me how much she loves all of us. She cannot meet me at the mall for Santa pictures in December; she cannot do anything at all.
So I take a little longer to stare into her soul, like this picture I can see her if I look real close. My embrace lingers as I fully inhale her blocks into my core. I sit with her, like we once used to, putting her delicate hand in mine. And I think oh how I wish I had my mom here with me now, to hide in her embrace when this world gets too tough. Oh how I wish her blocks were put back in order, the way they once were.
Ria Hill (Fine Art Pastel Painter) . June 29, 2011. Fractured [a portrait of Alzherimers], Retrieved September 23, 2014 from: http://riahills.com/fractured-a-portrait-of-alzheimers/