The shrill whistle of Helen’s hearing aid struck at Lynn’s nerves again. She reached over and patted her mother’s shoulder.
“Mom, turn your hearing aid down.”
Lynn turned up the volume on her voice, “YOUR HEARING AID, MOM. TURN IT DOWN.”
Helen fiddled with the device in her ear until the squealing stopped. The two women went back to reading their books, while the gentle tick-tock of the mantel clock added to the comfortable companionship.
The older woman removed her reading glasses, set down her book and said, “Isn’t it time for lunch?”
“No, Mom. We just finished breakfast, remember?”
“Oh, yes. I forgot.”
Lynn’s mind traveled back in time, to the first signs of her mother’s hearing loss and then the dementia. The heartbreaking confusion in her mother’s eyes when she could not remember someone’s name, or even who he or she was. The repetition of stories and questions, the anxious fretting over the smallest change in the daily routine, and the obsessive-compulsive behavior that signaled the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Lynn recalled the years when her mother had been sharp, strong, and creative. Helen had been a hairdresser, then an instructor in a beauty school, well loved by all the teenaged girls under her instruction. She remembered the wonderful home her mother had devoted herself to, in spite of working full-time. The lovely, often homemade, decorations that made their home such an inviting cozy nest; the delicious smells of creative cooking wafting from the kitchen. Mom had been such an amazing cook! Above all else, though, Helen had loved her children with a gentle devotion and faithfulness that set her apart from every other woman Lynn had known. Lynn was so thankful that underneath all of Mom’s confusion and restlessness there remained a gentle loving spirit.
Helen stood up and walked around the living room, searching beside the furniture and in every corner, her face etched with worry.
“What are you looking for, Mom?”
“My purse, have you seen it?”
This was one of Mom’s obsessions, keeping constant track of her purse and becoming agitated when she could not find it.
“It’s beside your bed, Mom, remember? That’s where we always keep it.”
Lynn sighed as she watched her mother head off towards the bedroom to confirm that her purse indeed was safe-and-sound.
There were folks who suggested to Lynn that it was probably time to put Helen into a nursing home. She understood they meant well, were simply concerned for both women; and frankly, there were times when Lynn’s frazzled nerves screamed for her to seriously consider it. Nevertheless, her response was always the same, “Mom will live longer and have a better life if she lives with us.”
So she continued serving and loving her mother, day in and day out, never giving up, never compromising on what she believed to be the right thing.
Later that night Lynn checked in on her sleeping mother. In the soft nightlight glow, Lynn sat on the edge of Helen’s bed and gently stroked the downy white hair and soft cheeks of this woman who had given so much throughout her lifetime. She looked amazingly peaceful and contented lying there, free from the constant confusion that plagued her waking moments.
A smile turned up the corners of Helen’s mouth and Lynn heard her murmur, “Thank you, Lynn.”
The daughter leaned in closer and whispered, “What’s that, Mom?”
Helen slowly opened her eyes as a troubled frown washed away the lovely peacefulness.
“Have you seen my purse, honey?”
Lynn smiled reassuringly, kissed her mother’s cheek and said, “Yes, Mom. It’s right here beside you, just like it always is.”
“Thank you, sugar. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight, Mom. I love you. Sleep well.”
Author's Note: For my wonderful sister, who continues to faithfully care for our beloved mother.
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