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.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Hands tell the short story of a life.

In early 2010 my sister, Ann, was coming for a visit after our mother had fallen, breaking a hip. Mom was failing fast.

My niece had found a beautiful picture of multigenerational hands online and sent it to us, spurring us to try to duplicate the photo. We arrived at the dementia unit––I with my camera in hand.

In this picture, Dad’s creased and rough hands wear his class ring from 1939, and a Masonic ring. He always did love a bit of bling, but in his defense, one must actively wear all of these possessions in a locked dementia unit, or they end up missing, found on other people’s hands.

The ring you see my dad putting on my mother’s crooked fingers matches one on his hand. These were bands bought for their 25th wedding anniversary, 40 years earlier. 

When Mom and Dad died, Ann took Mom’s anniversary ring. I took Dad’s. His fits the middle finger on my right hand perfectly. When I’m brushing my teeth in the morning, the glint of the gold winks at me, reminding me of my parents’ love for each other, and my bond with my sister.

Yesterday, while babysitting my seven-month-old granddaughter, she rolled from her back to her stomach in her quest to explore her little world of the blanket on the living room floor. As I lay with her, playing, cooing, and peek-a-booing, she was mesmerized by Dad’s ring on my hand. She pulled my finger, examining every angle of the ring, as though she was a scientific researcher, pulling it closer to her face, closer to her eyes, then to her nose, finally trying like the dickens to slip my finger in her mouth to taste test.

I looked at her little, brand-new hands––her fingers about one-fifth the size of my own. Hers, fresh and plump––mine, crinkled and ruddy. I was struck by the presence of my parents, their essence felt through that small piece of metal that had wound around their fingers for decades.

At birth a baby reflexively grasps the hand of their parent. That baby grows to a child who holds their parents’ hands to be taught, to be protected. Over the next half century, the roles reverse as slowly as it takes wrinkles to form, eyesight to fade, and joints to wear out. If a parent lives long enough to become frail, that parent comes to hold their child’s hand for strength and safety. At death, the child grasps their parent’s hand, thanking them for life. Just like the never-ending circle of a ring, joy comes in holding the hands of future generations.  


Linda Austin said...

Ah, you made me cry. I spent the last month holding my mother's dear, frail hand until she passed. In my mind, I can't let go.

Jean Lee said...

Wow, Linda. Your comment holds more power than the post. Blessings, Jean

Lori said...

What a sweet post!

Lori said...

What a sweet post!