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, January 16, 2013

Happy Anniversary, Ed and Ibby

Today would have been my parents' 69th wedding anniversary. I envision them reunited and restored, celebrating together in heaven––Ed's arm protectively around Ibby's shoulders, her head snuggled into the crook of his neck.
This is one of my favorite pictures of them. I believe it must have been taken when they were dating. When I cleaned out their house, I found the photo stashed in the front of a ripped cardboard box, with a gold foil paper-covered lid, which might have once held Hallmark cards. Inside that box, I found my dad's WWII dog tags and Mom and Dad's early love letters from 1941 to 1944. I felt like a spy reading something so private between my parents. In fact, my sister and I nearly threw the envelopes away without ever opening, thinking we were invading their privacy by reading. But, as I started reading, I couldn't stop. The terms of endearment used at that time reveal much about the way lovers talked to one another. Some of the mundane events spoken of remind me a little of today's texting. In a few, their desire and longing for one another is palpable, yet written discretely.

Each chapter of Alzheimer's Daughter begins with one of their letters, showing Ed and Ibby's love written in their own words––the beginning of the devotion which allowed them to hold tight until life's end, even as Alzheimer's devoured and ravaged.

I'm going to begin sharing the letters as blog posts. Today's is Ibby's first letter to Ed. I almost didn't recognize the writer as my mother, because every letter is formed so perfectly and stiffly. It's obvious she's nervous to write it. As a little background, they attended high school together, but never dated until post graduation. This letter was written shortly after Ed left for the Army.

November 11, 1941
Dear Ed,
I don’t know why––but it seems so much easier for me to tell you in writing how much you mean to me. You know there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you. In these uncertain times everyone needs someone to live for, to dream about––without this we’re lost.
Ed, I love you with all my heart. I’d consider it an honor if you’d allow me to wait for you until the war is over.
Why couldn’t I have realized, and told you about my feelings in person, before you left for the Army? I am so very sure now.

 This letter was the beginning of a relationship lasting 66 years. Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!