Adventures in Alzheimer’s – no arms and no legs edition

by Julie Frayn on July 10, 2015 in  Adventures in Alzheimer's,Mama Bird

What do you call a man with no arms and no legs who sits in the recliner in Mom’s living room? Daddy…

Yeah, I know. So bad. The backstory:

Mom reminisces a lot lately. For so many years these stories have been repeated ad nauseum – and almost verbatim from telling to telling. Alzheimer’s brings new twists to Mom’s history. The decades change, and peoples’ ages shift. She recently told me her former boss was a father figure to her and because of what he paid her, Mom and Dad could afford to pay cash for their house.

That man is younger than Mom. She started working for him in the late ‘80s. They bought the house in 1971. Not for cash.

The other day she asked where our car was. What car? The one that was almost yellow but not yellow. It got crushed when the tree fell down. Was Daddy alive then?

Mom's broken ash - no Meteor beneath it

Mom’s broken ash – no Meteor beneath it

Pressing for more details I realized the car was her 1967ish Meteor that she sold to a teenage boy around 1974 for $500 (I don’t know why that particular memory is so clear in my brain). Most limbs of the tree, under the weight of a freak September snow storm last year, broke and fell. None of them onto any car. We took the tree down, it did not fall. And Daddy died 20 years ago.

In the early stages, before she was diagnosed, I called it revisionist history. Her stories would change to be better, to end the way I assumed she wished life had been. Like how, according to Mom, she always knew smoking was unhealthy and would NEVER smoke in the house or in front of us kids.

Yeah, right….

I remember both her and Dad (and all their friends at the many parties and barbecues and bridge nights they used to throw) smoking up a storm. Heck, we’d empty their overflowing ashtrays for them and mix them drinks – usually rye and water. One day just a couple of years back we found the old VHS tape that Mom had all of our home movies put onto. There was the proof. A birthday party in the ‘60s. Mom’s fingers, lit cigarette between them, pointing and gesturing at presents right under our innocent little noses.

She was shocked.

These days it’s less about improving history and more about mixing it all up, adding details to round out the events, and spitting out a bunch of nonsense with a few iotas of recognizableness. I used to correct her, but stopped. Because really, what does it matter?

Xmas '94, Daddy 2 months after his leg was amputated

Xmas ’94, Daddy 2 months after his leg was amputated

So we were reminiscing about Daddy, a common occurrence, and we talked about when he got his leg amputated just months before his death. She asked, do you remember what he was like when he came home?

Happy. To be out of the hospital for a change and in his own chair.

She grinned and her eyes drifted.

Yes. And then his other leg fell off. And his arms.

Um… sure Mom.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary Smith July 10, 2015 at 2:54 pm

It’s definitely best not to argue in such circumstances!

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Julie Frayn July 11, 2015 at 10:26 am

So true!

Jackie Weger July 11, 2015 at 11:15 am

Julie! Just a fab post. I know it is sad, but your Mom is giving you a lot of grist for the mill. It always make me smile.

JackieWeger

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Julie Frayn July 11, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Thanks, Jackie. I rest easy knowing that I inherited my love of inappropriate humour from both of my parents. Dad would have loved that joke… :)

Kathi July 10, 2016 at 7:27 am

*sigh* The really scary part is when one finds oneself starting to be able to follow the thought train even after it derails. My mom (who, I think I’ve mentioned, was mentally ill) used to have this odd, dissociative way of talking, in which she refrained from using proper names, only pronouns, making it even more of a challenge to follow. One sentence would end up being a string or tangential phrases leading to a final phrase that was several continents removed from the initial one. I discovered early on that it was better to refrain from trying to keep her on the right track, mostly because I wasn’t sure which track that was. Hugs. :)

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