My mom has long been a coffee lover. She was filled with disdain and anger when, due to heart issues (as in, three heart attacks in one afternoon ten years ago, a 98% blockage removed by her heart doctor, Dr. Goodheart – I shit you not) she had to switch to the dreaded decaf she so loathed, or give it up altogether. I think it was harder on her than the fact she had to quit smoking at the same time. Over the years, with the onset of dementia and her brain getting lost in the throes of Alzheimer’s, “coffee” has morphed into something unrecognizable.

Her normal coffee routine, before and after decaf, was to make a big pot, leave the liquid in the pot for 2 days, and drink it until it was gone. Each hour it got cooler. The next day it was icy. She didn’t care, that’s how she liked it.

Me and Mom 2003

Me and Mom 2003

About a year or so ago she started to water it down. A small pot became several half-litre jars that were about 1/3 coffee, 2/3 water. She’d put all those jars in the fridge, retrieve them one at a time. Unscrew lid, slurp coffee, screw on lid, rinse and repeat.

I thought that was as freaky as coffee was going to get. Colour me naïve.

She lost her keys recently, so while baby girl kept her busy on one of their four hour grocery marathons, baby boy and I went to her place to put in a new furnace filter. It’s easier to sneak in when she’s not there rather than do any chores in her presence when a five minute job turns into three hours of mom telling us we’re doing it wrong and why are we doing that and we’re doing it wrong and why are we….. It’s the Alzheimer’s verbal merry-go-round.

So after we put in the new filter, we looked for her keys. Baby boy checked the freezer and the oven (don’t even ASK about the mass of moldy, decomposed pot full of what might have been chicken and potatoes we found in there), and the fridge. In the fridge was a jar of what looked like watered down coffee with a note in Mom’s handwriting taped to it.

Brown sugar and water (Yum Yum)

Me and Mom 2013

Me and Mom 2013

It gets weirder. The next day I brought her Nutella and E.D. White’s lemon ‘jam’ (basically the inside of a lemon meringue pie that you spread on toast). She was so excited because she was almost out of both. She showed me the near empty containers – both of them sloshed when she moved them. They were filled with watered down lemon curd, and watered down Nutella.

She calls them her coffee. “So tasty.” She held them to her chest like a five-year-old hugs a new dolly at Christmastime.

But wait! There’s more….

She was making coffee. Actual decaf coffee. Pouring water from her kettle into an empty filter over a mug, making a mess, burning her fingers. I asked what she was doing. “This is how I make coffee.” She opened the kettle. It was full of boiled coffee grounds. She told me she didn’t have a coffee machine so she did it that way.

I tapped her coffee maker sitting not three inches away and said, you have a coffee machine right here.

“Is that what that is?” Then she told me that when my brother visited, he didn’t know how to use the coffee maker either so he boiled it like she was doing.

Uh, no….

I know that Alzheimer’s is dementia on crack, but much of what is happening is a surprise. Some of it is hilarious. And some of it scares the bejezus out of me. If I carry the gene that virtually guarantees I will get this disease, I don’t want to know, don’t want to get tested to find out. Maybe it’ll hit me fast and I’ll be instantly oblivious. Because when Mom is aware of how messed up her mind is, her sadness, frustration, and anger is truly heartbreaking.


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