Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Growing up, my mother was the pretty mom.  She was not a glamorous beauty, but a very approachable, natural one.  Mom had glossy black hair, beautiful skin and high cheek bones.  That is was the Cherokee blood we are rumored to have.  She was voted prettiest girl in at Cumberland High School her senior year.  She never quite knew how to handle the attention her beauty brought her.  My mother was more than just pretty though she was kind. People were drawn to my mother.  Children loved her.  She was very easy to talk to.  I cannot count the times that I went out with her, only to have complete strangers strike up a conversation and engage her for minutes on end.  It was almost silly. Christmas 2009, we took Dominick to visit Santa Claus at the local shopping center.  Santa looked very happy when my mother walked in with us.  In fact, after the obligatory chat and photo with my son, he says to my  mother, "I sure do like how you look, come take a picture with me!".  You do not argue with Santa.  

As I type this, I just noticed that I am writing about my mother in the past tense.  She is very much alive. I just cannot go to the store with her anymore.  She struggles to chat with anyone who might be drawn to her sweet nature.  My mother is in the later stages of Alzheimer's Disease, or possible Fronotemporal Dementia.  It doesn't matter what you call it, as the end result is the same.  No cure.  It is appalling what this disease has stolen from her, from us.  Mom cannot express herself clearly.  She has no short term memory.  She cannot take care of herself, or walk unassisted.  She has few pleasures in life, other than family, and we have become her entire world.   There are days when she cannot speak coherently, and others when she has amazing recall.  The good days are gems.  Alzheimer's has been called 'the long good-bye', and that makes sense to me.   This disease has robbed my mother of her ability to be who she was, a remarkable, high energy, very capable woman.  It pains me to have to dress my mother in velvet sweatpants and slip on sneakers (it is necessity for the logistics of caring for her, as well as comfort).  This was a woman who kept the Nordstrom's shoe department in business, and is responsible for the successful careers of several Chanel cosmetic counter clerks.  My mother, flat out, had natural grace, classic good taste and presented herself well.   She will be 70 years old this April, and is still is that natural beauty, and the sweetest person you could ever meet.  Alzheimer's cannot rob her of the essence of who she is.

I often think about what I miss the most about my mother.  I could say that it is sharing a glass of wine and giggling about silly things.  That was so fun.  We often got into trouble by indulging each others weaknesses (shopping, good food and wine).  I miss the Lucy and Ethel antics of she and her sister Mary.   Lord, how those two could turn something simple like going to garage sales into a convoluted, hilarious mess.  I just miss 'HER' so much.  My heart breaks that my son will never eat the wonderful baked goods she was famous for.  I hate that he will never spend the night at his grandparent's house and wake up to Mickey Mouse pancakes like she lovingly made for me and my sister.  The biggest insult for me though, is not being able to discuss with her, the challenges of being a wife and a mother.  Mom would have been able to help me with my struggles and guide me along this journey.  She listened and she cared so much.  I have good friends and a wonderful mother in law I can turn to, but they can't replace my mother.  I am lucky though and I realize that.  I have my mother, while other do not.  She is physically healthy.  We are blessed.  I also have rich, wonderful memories of a loving, kind and beautiful mother, and like I said, there are good days when she can respond and participate in conversations with us. I can conjure up a laugh anytime just drawing on the wealth of my life experiences with her.  

This past Christmas, we went to visit Santa again at this same shopping center, only my mother is now in a wheelchair.  The same Santa is working.  Again, he sees my mother, and his eyes light up.  Dominick sits on his lap and they do the Santa thing.  After the pictures, Santa says to Mom, "Why don't you come over here and see me.  I want to take my picture with you." So, we roll her on over, and Santa flirts with her, and she was charming right back.  I wonder what Mrs. Claus thinks.  

It is an honor to care for her and be loved by her.

Love all - Jenn XOXO

1 comment:

  1. This post had me in tears. I too remember her grace and gentle spirit. Beautiful and kind is a killer combo. That's the Aunt Caroline I know and love. Give her a kiss for me!