Alzheimer’s — Not Afraid to Love

Mom, 1940, 3 yrs. old, Wadena, MN

I live far away from my parents and I’ll admit, I need to mentally prepare myself to be with them . . . especially my mom when I visit.  My mom is not my mom anymore. It’s like a stranger is inhabiting my mother’s body — except my mother’s body doesn’t look like mom anymore either. Alzheimer’s disease has changed my mom both inside and out. She used to care how she looks, and now she doesn’t have the capacity to care.  She used to be a familiar harbor, offering motherly comforts, and now she’s the one who needs comforting and reassurance.

But, I’ve been visiting my parents for almost a week now, and one thing is clear — my mom is full of Love.

Mom loves strangers.  She actually believes that everyone is an old friend.  She talks to most people, and she hugs them and tells them she loves them.  She kissed an elderly woman she didn’t know on the lips, and since the woman seemed to enjoy it, I’m pretty sure she had dementia too.  It’s interesting to watch.  This activity used to bother me, but I’ve learned to relax and I’ve noticed that most people don’t mind.  But sometimes I wish I had a card that said “Alzheimer’s — she’s harmless.”

Or, “Alzheimer’s — not afraid to love.”

Mom also loves children.  She gets down on their level and tries to make them feel special.  Children are usually more receptive to the joy my mom has to give, but the parents – not so much.  She high-fived a family of six the other day, and afterward she told me, “I like to do that so they know they have something here.”

My mom loves just about everyone and everything.  She loves raisins, the sunshine and the clouds in the sky. She loves animals, pine cones and waking up to a new day. Mom told me once, that when she wakes up in the morning and opens the blinds to let the sun in — she could just cry. She cries lately; but they seem to be tears of joy — like the innocent joy of a new day.

My mom is like a child — a happy child finally free from the worries of the world — who is not afraid to LOVE.

Ruth Joanne Hall, 1939, 2 yrs. old

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Comments

  1. What a different place the world would be if we were all joyous like that. Beautiful.

  2. diane calvaruso says:

    Beautifully written Joanne. I am so happy to kow that your visit is going so well. Enjoy!!

  3. Rich Danielson says:

    Very moving an well written. I am so sorry you have to deal with this Joanne. I am thankful your mother is happy and friendly. I have seen the attitude go the other way when happy people get a personality that would appal them if they new what the had become. Stay strong!

  4. Chris Lingle says:

    Wow. We all need a little more of that kind of fearlessness. Your mom is teaching us so much, through you, and doesn’t even know it! Or maybe on some level, she does…

    Happy belated Mother’s Day! Miss ya. 🙂

    • Joanne Leonardis says:

      Thanks Chris. She is definitely my teacher right now. I feel so blessed to have this time with her.

  5. Heidi Hall says:

    Wow, Joanne…what a moving post. Have you come across anything that might explain why Alzheimer’s manifests in different ways? I just wonder if one’s disposition before onset has any impact on whether a person ends up happy, paranoid, etc.

    • Joanne Leonardis says:

      Hi Heidi! No, I haven’t come across anything yet but I’ve always felt it has something to do with the brightness and lightness of the soul. My mom has always been sensitive to the world and people around her and she’s always been a giver and a helper. I like to think I am witnessing my mom’s true nature . . . her very bright soul. : )

  6. Betty LaMoore says:

    Hi Joanne,
    This afternoon Lou and I went to visit with your mom. When we walked in we got the biggest welcome. It was like she hadn’t seen us for many months, but she did recognize us, not by name. She really seems happy there. When she took us to her room she sat down and took her shoes off and she is really proud of them (they really look like a good pair). Then when it was time for us to go she didn’t know what to put on her feet, she thought they were my shoes. When I said “no” that they were her’s she was fine with that. The home’s personnel told me that she has been eating very well. she eats all the food on her plate and they don’t have to scrape anything off her plate. And Ruth says that the food is good! She didn’t mention anything about going home which made me glad….She especially liked it that Lou was with me. We stop in to see her again, but don’t know when. You made a wise decision, Joanne. Love, Betty

    • Joanne Leonardis says:

      Hi Betty,
      Thank you for taking the time to share about your visit with my mom! It’s a joy to hear that she is well and happy and not asking about leaving. It might not have been the best timing in buying her new shoes, because it sounds like she’s not sure they’re hers. Thank you also for being such good friends over the years — that means so much to my mom as well as her family. If you know of other visitors, please encourage them to share like you did — either on my blog or my Racing Alzheimer’s facebook page. I would love to hear everything about my mom!

      Thank you . . . with Love,
      Joanne

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