I recently spent a few days visiting my parents and sisters in Florida. My mom has Alzheimer's disease which is progressing so I made the decision to go there every three months to spend time with my family and to offer whatever help I can on my short visits. My dad and sisters care for my mom every single day, so my three day visit is nothing compared to their tireless devotion to her.
My dad and sisters are committed and patient as they take care of mom's every need. This is not an easy task and it is one that is constantly changing as her disease progresses. My sisters arrive early most mornings to help with mom's personal hygiene and return on most evenings to cook dinner and to prepare mom for bed. This gives my dad a break and helps him to stay on top of the many household duties that he has been forced to take over since my mom is no longer able.
Since mom's day to day condition is unpredictable, each time I visit there is a new level of care that must be taken. Every new day can bring a different challenge, but through thoughtful attention and a painstaking process of trial and error, my dad and my sisters have done their very best to make life as comfortable and enjoyable as possible for my mom.
I was touched watching my sister Lori, tenderly holding mom's shaking hand still so that she could raise her fork to her mouth without dropping her food. I was impressed to see Lori's focus and attention as she brushed and flossed mom's teeth since according to Lori, "she doesn't do a good enough job!"
Tracy is committed to keeping mom healthy, engaged, and social, so despite her very demanding job Tracy has made herself available to drive mom to and from the Senior Friends center two days a week for the past few years. She is also involved in mom's medical care, taking time off of work to go with my parents to doctor's visits and check ups. She is handy around the house so I often see her arriving with tools to fix whatever might be broken.
My organized and disciplined dad who calls my mom his "best friend" and "hobby" keeps mom on a schedule, lovingly prepares her breakfast, and makes sure she takes her vitamins each day. In honor of my mom's love for music, my dad will play the harmonica or sing to keep her engaged and focused.
Although I have grown used to my mom's condition, I still have moments of anger and sadness at the loss of my old mom. Alzheimer's disease has taken away my mom's vivaciousness and enthusiasm. I have fond memories of her singing and dancing with my kids, building sand castles and body surfing at the beach, and sharing kindness and conversation with friends and strangers alike. Like Lori, my mom tenderly fed and cared for her five daughters and grandchildren. Like Tracy, "handy mom" could often be seen with tools, prepared to fix whatever was broken.
As I watched my dad and sisters last week patiently attending to mom, I felt a stirring in my heart. The anger and sadness that sometimes bubbles up was replaced with love and gratitude for my family that cares so deeply for each other. I had a flash of the Grinch in the story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I remembered how the anger and sadness in the Grinch's heart dissolved when he saw the love, devotion, and happiness that the Who families shared despite all that was taken away from them. His heart became so full of love that it "grew three sizes that day."
I am pretty sure the same thing happens to me each time I witness how much love, caring, and devotion my dad and my sisters have for my mom.
So it is with my big and full heart that I offer my gratitude to Dad, Lori, and Tracy.
Thank you, I love you all very much.
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