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.

Monday, December 22, 2014


If someone had asked me what scents and fragrances I remember from my childhood, apple pie, meat loaf, Wrigley’s spearmint gum, and line-dried clean sheets might have come to mind. But last Friday while at the checkout in Dollar General, I saw this.­­

Stopped in my tracks, paralyzed, I was unable to move forward. No, I didn’t need to spend the $2, but the coral and white paisley packaging as well as the memory of the soft spicy musk of Chantilly made it impossible for me leave without handing this to the clerk as she scanned my purchases. 

On my way home, memories drifted through my mind. My parents, my sister, and I lived in a small, three-bedroom ranch with one bathroom. By today’s standards, one bathroom might seem inconvenient, but in the late 1950s we just felt lucky to have a bathroom. No one I knew had more than one bathroom, and many families had five or six kids. The medicine cabinet held everyone’s toiletries and toothbrushes. But, the Chantilly dusting powder always sat beside the sink. Mom was the last to get ready for bed at night. She’d wait until everyone else had taken their bath, then take her own and scrub out the tub. If I was still awake by the time she was ready to crawl into bed, I’d smell the Chantilly dusting powder as the second-to-the-last step in her nighttime routine. The last step was kneeling to pray at her bedside.

Even though both of my parents died of Alzheimer’s, I feel so fortunate that they were sweet to each other and close until the end. Sometimes when I went to visit them in the nursing home, I’d find them curled up together, Dad’s chest snuggled into Mom’s back, spooned together, his arms around her.

I had not thought of Chantilly for years. But when I arrived at home from my errands, I opened the bottle, sniffed and dabbed a drop in the hollow of my throat. I’ve worn it every day since. Out of curiosity, I Googled Chantilly and learned that came to market in 1941, the year my parents started dating, the year my Dad entered the Army.

Amazing, isn’t it, the way a scent can trigger long forgotten recollections? Thanks for the memories, Chantilly.