and that fact really SUCKS!! My mom was so, so intelligent and put together. She was a firm believer in NEVER leaving the house without being fully dressed to the nines. She never owned a pair of jeans, only dress slacks or skirts, and bought her first pair of khaki’s at the age of 70 (which she thought was ‘awfully casual’ to be worn in public). She was an “indoor girl”, to quote DiCaprio from Titanic. Sweating in the sun was not her thing. Yard work? Nope. Gardening? Nope. Community pool? Nope. She raised -3- girls without hardly EVER going outside. Two of us would rather BE outside….I’m not sure if our lack of it growing up turned us into outdoorsy adults, but we very much became that way. My father taught me how to ride my bike. My neighborhood and school friends taught me the ins and outs of football (tackle, of course), water skiing, and camping. My father loved to snow ski, so every Spring Break vacation was spent in New Mexico or Colorado skiing. My mom tried it once, it was a disaster. I can still vividly remember watching my father carrying my mom’s skis down the mountain while she walked several paces ahead….like she couldn’t get down soon enough. My mom was a creature of habit and very set in her ways. I am the baby, the last born by many years, and she had a very hard time with my growing up. She hovered, was over protective, and did all she could to stifle my independence. My dad traveled a lot on business, so for many years it was mostly she and I, as both my sisters were out of the house by the time I was 7 years old. I was my mother’s soap opera companion, her clothes fetcher at Frost Bros., her template to practice new hair styles and her sounding board when things were not in her control. When I was a teen she made me insane. I wasn’t allowed to do this or that, there was ALWAYS some issue with my friends or boyfriends, and driving…..that was a BIG issue between us. One that made me leave the house on several occasions only to lose the use of my car for weeks at a time. Then, my mouth took over, and I found a way to really get under her skin. I was swiftly moved to a private school because my folks didn’t tolerate ANYTHING!! College and early adulthood were better as I grew up, started a family, moved out of state, and was available to talk maturely on the phone daily. For about 20 years I spoke with my mom daily. Once we moved back to my hometown, we saw each other almost daily. She had her quirks and her demons, but she was my mom and she was an unwavering support when I needed it. Then came 2014, and things began to change. Small things at first; she’d forget a conversation we had, a time we were to meet, nothing overly obvious. As the years went on, her memory became increasingly worse and alarming. I’d talk to my sister about what I was seeing, and she would explain it away as just “old age”. She lived out of state and only saw our mom three times a year, she had no idea what the day to day was like. I took my mother to a neurologist who ran tests and found the presence of “Early Stage Dementia-Alzheimer’s”. My mom immediately went into denial and told the doctor he was, “Too young to know how to read scans correctly”. That was a nice end to a long day. 2017 was the turning point for our family, it became very clear she wasn’t getting things done….bills not paid, forgetting to eat, forgetting where my children went to school, the list goes on. My dad became alarmed and confronted her with her memory issues to which she told him that he needed to mind his own “fading mind”, and leave her alone. From that point on the decline of my mother was swift and unnerving. The decision was made to move her into memory care where my sister lives two states away. I agreed to it too quickly and really didn’t have time to process other options. Because her own furniture was moved into her apartment, she thought she was at her townhouse she had owned and lived in for 12 years. We all thought her transition went pretty darn smoothly. Maintaining a relationship with her, however, is close to impossible. She can no longer hold a phone conversation. She repeats everything over and over and after 30 minutes all you’ve really talked about was how she’s coming “home” pretty soon, maybe next week. I visit as much as I can, but for me it’s not enough. At the same time, those visits break my heart. She’s childlike. She giggles and plays with balloons, she spits out food at the table she finds “gross”, and she likes to play jewelry and make up as much as you will let her. Playing jewelry is where she goes into her safe, pulls out all her jewelry for you to try on, and then she tries to give it to you. Playing make up is going through every single item of skin care and make she has, and she tries to give it all to you at the end. She ALWAYS hugs me, tells me she loves and misses me, and tears up when she sees I have arrived. We drink coffee, play scrabble (where she makes nonsense words, but insists they are real words), and we watch football in her room (which is always set between 85-87 degrees!). We have a really good time, then I have to leave, and as I fly home, I cry because the woman I just spent several days with isn’t my mother. Alzheimer’s stole my mother. This woman looks like her, sounds like her, but she isn’t her. My mother is gone…..for good. The mother I had will never return. Instead, she will deteriorate more and more until she passes away. When could that be? Next year, 5 years from now? It’s an unknown. I know I have not properly grieved for the loss of the mother I knew. I think, maybe next visit she will be a little better. It’s useless to think this way, but I guess I have some denial that I’ve chosen to live in. I have friends who have lost their mothers to cancer, heart attacks, strokes….their mothers are gone in every sense of the word. I know they view my grief differently because physically, my mother is still here. I can still call and hear her voice, hug her, etc. To me, however, I feel there is not much difference. Grief happens when something is taken away emotionally, physically, spiritually. My mother’s mind has been taken away and along with it everything that I held dear when she was well. I haven’t spent a birthday or actual holiday with her for 2 years. I have a family that needs me and I can’t always take off to go up north. Alzheimer’s is referred to as the long good bye, and it is. It’s a humiliating, disrespectful, mean, and unrelenting to those it takes over……and it has taken over my mom. My mother has Alzheimer’s….and it really SUCKS!!