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 6- After the Diagnosis

* * *
December 24, 1943
My Dearest Ed,
Momma and Daddy, Lydia, Dottie, and I just came home from Christmas Eve service. I couldn’t hold back my tears while singing ‘Silent Night’ in the candlelight.
Lydia went straight from church to Peter’s family’s gathering. I know she aches for him. I miss you terribly, and wish you were here. It doesn’t relieve my sadness hearing Bing Crosby’s ‘I’ll be home for Christmas.’
Don’t misunderstand, I thank God you’re not shipped out yet, and I pray for all our soldiers in danger overseas. But I long for you.
It’s been said that people in love are not sensible. We are the exception to that rule. I waited for you, a prize package. You are such a wonderful optimist about the war ending soon. You are so good to me––so considerate, kind, and thoughtful. Your faith is strong, dear, and I love you with all my heart.
 I’m lonesome, honey. I wish you were home for Christmas, even though I know we’ll always be together, ‘if only in our dreams.’
Yours forever,
P.S. I hope the slipper socks I knitted arrived in time for Christmas.
* * *

August 11, 2006
            This morning as I prepared for today’s appointment with the gerontologist, I was at ease knowing the doctor would prescribe a move. Jitters still plagued me, however, because Mom and Dad didn’t want to go to this appointment, and I knew they might refuse to come out of the house to get in the car with me.
When I arrived, they agreed to go without a fight. We made polite conversation throughout the 40 minute drive. As we arrived at the doctor’s office we were ushered into the same conference room where they received their diagnosis four months earlier. They sat with a stoic, tight-lipped, curt demeanor. The doctor greeted them in a friendly, professional way and inquired about how they’re doing. Mom cleared her throat and nodded. Dad responded with only a nod and a side-glance.
Without delay, the doctor started writing and explaining medical prescriptions for Dad.  
·      The first stated, “Help required with medications, finances, and daily living or move to a retirement community.”
·      The second mandated, “Obtain new driving evaluation, or stop driving.
Mom and Dad hung their heads shaking them, first with wide eyed I-can’t-believe-it sadness, then squinting with how-dare-you denial. Mom became snotty, defending her man, and Dad was infuriated and disrespectful. They huffed and sputtered, their speech not making any sense, both trying to put words together to make sentences, neither able.
The doctor stood and moved toward the door to make a quick exit, holding the door for us, reminding them, “Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.” Intended this as constructive advice––to Ed and Ibby’s hurt, angry ears––it sounded condescending and trite.
I stood, helping my parents to their feet. Putting my arm around Mom, we exited the office with Dad behind. 
As I led them through the hallway, guilt followed me. I knew these prescriptions were issued not only because of my parents’ diagnosis, but also because of my pleas for help.
As we walked through the outer office, no further appointments were made. There was no need.
In silence, we made our way home.
As I drove, thoughts swirled in my head. I was relieved and thankful the doctor had supported Annette and me in this critical decision. Overwhelmingly though, I was heartbroken for my parents because everything they’ve known of independence for sixty-two years of marriage would now change because of these three pieces of paper, known as medical prescriptions. Annette and I could now say that the move was ‘doctor’s orders.’ I felt like an empowered coward...