Ah yes, mom! Please welcome author, speaker and certified dementia practitioner Elaine Pereira here today for a guest post. What follows are her reflections on how her mother, diagnosed with dementia, inspires her. It is what prompted Elaine to write the book I Will Never Forget, as she explains below.
A lengthy and impressive list of remarkable women have achieved medical miracles, championed causes and modeled extraordinary grace collectively “making a real difference”. But there are literally millions of women, mostly invisible to the world, who selflessly execute the most difficult job there is: Being a Mom! Mothers are the first women to inspire us.
Raising children from infancy, through teenager abyss and into adulthood without abandoning ship is only part of their accomplishment. The other side of life’s motherhood coin is the daunting responsibility of being a parent to your parent!
I know! I’ve been there. Just like many of you who have, are or will be! Honestly parenting my twin daughters was easier than parenting my mom.
Setting The Bar High
My mother’s incredible life traversed almost nine decades. Born in 1924, Elizabeth (Betty) was five when the Great Depression hit causing severe financial havoc. Later, in the shadows of World War II, Betty earned her BS in chemistry. Relocating as a young woman from Indiana for a job in Michigan, she was a trailblazing role model for others.
My parents married in 1946. Gerald was born in 1947 and David in 1949. Four months pregnant with her third child in 1951, unspeakable tragedy struck. Their car was T-boned by a young driver who plowed into the front passenger side where my mom was cradling 20 month old David. Hurled into the dashboard, little David lived only a few days.
Before car seats, seat belts and car insurance they endured emotional devastation and faced financial ruin. But despite mom’s numerous injuries, she remained resolutely strong for her unborn baby, me!
A Great Mom
Over time their physical wounds healed. Dad was a great provider but Mom was our “everything”! She made Halloween costumes; baked endless batches of cookies; made Christmas magical; helped with homework and more.
When I was twelve, mom finished her Masters in Education and taught high school math. I grew up with a working-outside-the-home mom! And inside too: She trimmed shrubs and braided my hair; handled the snow blower and crafted exquisite ornaments. Her accomplishments, talents and inspiration were endless!
My Turn as a Mother
I was not the easy kid to raise! In fact when my twin daughters turned thirteen launching me into the unpredictable role of being a mother of teenagers, Mom sent me a condolence card! Oh, did I get it. What I put my parents through was ridiculous. But later, when I needed to lobby powerfully in her behalf, I was a piranha.
My mother’s world started to unravel in April 2004. After nine years of selfless caregiving to my dad post stroke, he passed away and Mom collapsed. I had never seen her so completely exhausted! Mom rebounded briefly until my brother Jerry died in December. No parent should ever outlive their children, but Mom had buried two!
Now I was Mom’s “everything”. After years of smart remarks, Mom would finally benefit from the strength of character she had modeled for me. I was genuinely grateful to give back to the woman who gave so much.
Mother’s first witnessed episode of dementia was when she flew from Michigan to Sedona AZ to visit her nephew. My cousin Mike alerted me, “Aunt Betty thinks she’s still at home and she’s looking for her apartment.” I discounted Mike’s concerns and attributed her remarks to the fog of grief that enveloped her.
I was wrong. Regardless of one’s depth of sorrow, you don’t forget flying three hours or that the surroundings look nothing like your home. But she did due to the invading brain marauder, Alzheimer’s disease.
When Mom accused the overweight cleaning ladies of stealing her petite pants, I cautiously suggested she had donated them. When she wrote nine checks to her insurance company because she couldn’t remember writing one, I sorted out the financial mess. She got lost driving, meandering 20 miles into a different county, and I convinced her to stop driving. Her meticulous personal grooming dissolved as her ability to handle the laundry escaped her, and I took that over too. When mom’s once kind demeanor eroded into hostile and uncharacteristic verbal assaults, I was sensitive.
My mother’s decline from Alzheimer’s was so rapid she had to be relocated three times within a year into increasingly more secure settings. In a classic, Mom-like example of her fierce independent spirit and tenderness, she executed a stunning Houdini-esque escape to find her “mom and take care of her.”
Final Words on Motherhood
My mother was a great mom, not unlike all great moms except that she was mine! I did not inherit her boundless patience, piercing blue eyes or pie baking talents. But I did acquire her inspiring commitment to motherhood and raised my daughters as I had been raised. Thanks Mom!
Connect with Elaine Pereira
And thank YOU Elaine for such a heartfelt post.
In addition, her website I Will Never Forget highlights more about Elaine, her book, upcoming events, and more!