Alzheimer's Daughter

The Story

Alzheimer’s Daughter introduces the reader to my healthy parents, Ed and Ibby, years before their diagnosis, then recounts painful details as our roles reversed and I became my parents’ parent.


Their disease started as translucent, confused thoughts and ended in a locked memory care unit after a near decade of descent into the opaque world of Alzheimer's.

I began writing Alzheimer’s Daughter one week after my mother's death––when I was stunned, realizing Dad had no memory of her or their 66-year marriage.

I write to pay tribute to the undying spirit at Ed and Ibby's core, and with the hope that the story of their parallel decline might be helpful to others.

Chapter 3- We All Forget Things



* * *
June 15, 1942
My Dearest Ibby,
I love you, darling. Sweetest, the folks wrote and told me they were going to bring you out to see me. I’m making plans already. Darling, I can’t wait. I love you again and again!!!
I received the box today and it was swell. I think you are the most wonderful cook.
The new captain liked those molasses cookies.
Sweetheart, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t give to have you with me. I love you so much, and life would mean so little if it wasn’t for you. You are my everything, darling.
Goodnight, My Love,
XOXOXO Ed
* * *
During their golden years, the end of a perfect summer evening would find Ibby and Ed sitting in the driveway on two folding, aluminum lawn chairs with mismatched plastic webbing, angled toward each other, close enough to play footsie. They were the king and queen of their little quarter acre, holding court over their flowers and vegetable garden, waving at cars driving up and down Orchard Land, calling greetings to neighbors walking by.
During Annette’s visit in the summer of 2003, all four of us sat in the driveway one evening in a semi-circle as Dad showed Annette his new riding lawn mower, and invited her to take it for a spin. She made a few loops around the yard, while Mom and Dad beamed proud smiles and cheered for her. Annette and I shared a glance, shook our heads, and snickered, thinking, Who has parents like this, so happy and full of life, cheering for a 56 year old woman mowing a lawn?
Thankfully, Ed and Ibby remained physically healthy, taking few medicines, except for Dad’s blood pressure and Mom’s high cholesterol. However, Annette and I, along with our husbands and children noticed off-kilter, incidents. More and more frequently their actions, speech and ability to make clear decisions didn’t make sense. Annette and I would speak in hushed tones, grabbing a few moments to talk privately when she was home, and I’d try to remember recent events when we spoke by phone. Annette suggested I keep a journal documenting these oddities, so she could be informed, we’d be of one mind, and we could work as a team.
The thought of documenting my parents’ lapses made me uneasy––it was unsettling. I felt like I was gossiping about them on paper––as though I was a betrayer of those who would gladly sacrifice everything for me.
So, on the cardboard inside cover of a black Mead, seventy-page, spiral bound notebook, unused by any of my third graders because of its nondescript color, I wrote these words to try to absolve myself from guilt, in case something happened to me and someone else unearthed my spy’s journal:
·     Journal of the aging process of Ed and Ibby, started when they are age eighty-three.
·     I feel pain, sadness, and guilt as I begin this journal, because my parents have given my sister and me life, faith and everything we need to become strong, self-sufficient adults.
·     I document these events only to show a progression that may be helpful in the future for the purposes of diagnosis and decision making.


Then I wrote my first entry.

October 19, 2003
            After church today, Mom, Dad, and I ate lunch at the local restaurant. During conversation, they joked about an incident that happened last night. They told me they drove to a shopping mall about forty miles from home. They separated to search for their own bargains saying they’d meet in about an hour to eat. Dad assumed they’d meet at the McDonalds in the food court, but Mom thought they’d eat at a favorite restaurant on the outskirts of the mall. So after shopping, Mom, hunched and cold, walked from the mall in the rainy dusk being splashed by traffic, to their favorite restaurant about one-half mile away to meet Dad....