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 7- The Move

* * *
January 3, 1944
My Dearest Ed,
Darling, Lydia and Dottie surprised me with a bridal shower! Here are the things I received––all things for my hope chest; a sweet satin nightie, imperial glass candle holders, two linen guest towels, a lace doile, a flower vase, a vanity case, Yardley’s Dusting Powder, Apple Blossom Soap, $2 (Which I put into defense stamps at once).
Honey, how sweet of you to send the mirror, comb and brush set––it’s beautiful. Your taste is always excellent. Your presence would have made the party completely perfect, but we’ll be joined together forever very soon.
I’m praying for your furlough. Darling, I can’t wait to be your wife.
Yours forever,
P.S. Take care of your cold, darling.
* * *
The move was imminent. Lakeview Reserve provided us with movers, two women who owned a business called “Nest Makers,” specializing in re-locating the elderly. These ladies looked at the floor plan of the two-bedroom two-bath apartment and helped Mom and Annette determine what furniture to move. Two-thirds of Mom and Dad’s belongings went to the new apartment. All else was left behind to be sorted later.
On the dreary morning of November 15, 2006, Dad was still in bed as the movers began loading furniture. Mom said he’d fallen out of bed in the night and didn’t sleep well. Annette and I knew we needed to wake him. We stood at the bedroom door, looking back and forth at each other, both of us waiting for the other to make the first move. Meanwhile, Mom meandered around with the movers.
We waited until the last minute to disturb him. The house was full of noise, so we knew he must be awake. I don’t remember which one of us walked toward the bed first, but the other followed. We told him the movers had arrived. He responded to our voices by opening his eyes, rolling them, closing them again, and curling up in a ball. We had to coax him to stand up. It was obvious he would not or could not dress himself. Neither Annette nor I had ever dressed Dad, but this morning, one leg at a time and one arm at a time, we helped him out of his flannel pajamas, pulled on a polo shirt and khaki pants, then slipped loafers on his feet.
With one of us on either side, holding his arms, we walked him out of the bedroom so movers could load the bed. We continued to the living room, opened the coat closet, held their coats behind them, then I buttoned Mom’s tan trench coat and Ann zipped Dad’s jacket.
 As we walked through the dining room, without speaking, Mom paused to brush through the clutter on the dining table, picked up her wine-colored lipstick and dropped it in her purse which hung on the back of a straight chair. Placing the purse on her shoulder, she took a deep breath, tried to straighten her stooped spine, and took my hand as I guided her down the two steps to the garage. With Annette holding his hand to steady his swaying, Dad dragged his feet past his red Caddy, to my Jeep.
We helped them settle their fragile bones and stiff joints in the backseat, fastening their seatbelts. They sat erect, blank-faced, pale, looking straight ahead as I backed out of the driveway, and pulled away from the life they’d loved––their home on Orchard Lane in Rivertown––Mom and Dad filled with too much pain to even glance back­. Only I turned and stole a glimpse at the moving van in the driveway, trying to compose my face with a pasted empty smile, sucking in my tears––imagining their happy lives vanishing through the rectangular rear window––vanishing like a fleeting memory––vanishing like their minds...