Adventures in Alzheimer’s – racism and homo… euphoria?

by Julie Frayn on June 8, 2015 in  Adventures in Alzheimer's,Mama Bird

My mother has never been a racist. She taught us kids not to be, by pure example. But Alzheimer’s is turning her into one. Until those amyloid plaques started mucking with her brain (if that is truly how AZ works), the only group of people she ever had any real disdain for is liberals.

What she’s experiencing now isn’t true racism. It’s not deep-seated bigotry. It’s just fear and paranoia. Anything, anyone different is a threat. Hell, any noise is a threat. Commercials on TV are threatening. Breathing has become a threat….

At one medical appointment when she still had her driver’s license, so no one accompanied her, the lab tech had dark skin.

“I think he was from that country, the one with that evil man.”

I took a shot in the dark. “Iraq?”

“Yes! I didn’t know if he was going to take my blood or kill me.”

She told baby girl that some evil woman (evil folks lurk everywhere) on the TV wanted her to house immigrants.

“There’s no way in hell I’m housing foreigners!”

She looks upon anyone with dark complexion with distrust. It’s breaking my heart. I cringe when I see anyone with a turban, or a hajib, worried about what my pop out of her mouth. Lately, her outside voice is getting louder. And she’s getting verbal about her opinions on those she perceives to be overweight as well.

The exception to her fear and paranoia is children. One day in Safeway, after making googoo eyes and waving at some adorable children, she loudly announced that little black babies are the cutest babies ever.

At least she said black.

Mom has also never been homophobic. As much as Alzheimer’s is making her racist, it is doing the opposite about sexual orientation.

Everyone is gay.

Not in an ‘oh no what is the world coming to’ way. More ‘isn’t that nice that his special someone is a man and in those days that wasn’t as accepted as it is now’ way.

I am unsure what ‘days’ she’s speaking of, since most of the gay men she talks about are all hetero and married to women. Except for the ones that are actually gay. Either way, it doesn’t matter to her.

At least Alzheimer’s got something right.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Carolyn Frayn June 8, 2015 at 3:31 pm

Breaks my heart, too… It really does rob one of their true identity. ♥


Julie Frayn June 8, 2015 at 6:09 pm

Then I’ll crack a joke and she’ll laugh and laugh. And in those laughing eyes, I find Mom ♥.

Carolyn Frayn June 11, 2015 at 10:33 am

You’re absolutely right. Of course. 😉

Kathi June 8, 2015 at 3:45 pm

Oh, Julie…

On the plus side, at least she has an excuse. It’s the people who claim to have an intact brain and still spout bigotry that are really worrisome.

Still, this is surely one of the worst things about Alzheimer’s, the way it robs a person’s lifelong beliefs, perspective, logic, sense, in this totally random way. And by extension, it robs you and Carolyn of the mom who raised you. <3 <3


Julie Frayn June 8, 2015 at 6:11 pm

That’s so true, Kathi. xo

Carolyn Frayn June 11, 2015 at 10:34 am


Knot Telling June 9, 2015 at 12:04 am



Julie Frayn June 9, 2015 at 6:05 am

Yes ma’am, it is….

Mary Smith June 9, 2015 at 4:22 am

My dad used to make very loud remarks about people he saw in public along the lines of: “My, she’s a big woman. Look at the size of her arse.” He would helpfully point at the person just in case anyone missed who he meant.
But like your reply above – when he laughed at a joke or smiled at me he was my dad, same as always.


Julie Frayn June 9, 2015 at 6:06 am

That’s what she does, points and says things like, ‘do you see her? She’s so fat.’ Never know quite what to do, so I just smile and shrug. Most people get it.

Jackie Weger June 9, 2015 at 4:09 pm

I absolutely understand the heartache. I am fairly certain my kids will be delighted if my brain starts going mushy–if it will shut me up. You write with such compassion and humor… it leaves me smiling, however sad the situation. I get it.


Julie Frayn June 12, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Ah, but it doesn’t shut her up. It makes her ramble nonsense. I never had an issue with my mother talking. But it used to be actual sentences and cogent thought. Not gobbledygook and twisted English. I have to find the humour, or I’d lose my mind. Thanks, Jackie.

Mike Schulenberg June 9, 2015 at 5:28 pm

What a crappy disease :( I know how tough it is when it gets a hold of someone we love.


Julie Frayn June 12, 2015 at 4:36 pm

It is that, Mike. Thanks.

Abby L. Vandiver June 13, 2015 at 10:24 am

It isn’t funny, but it is. (At least the way you told the story was humorous, it left me smiling). I understand it can be very frustrating. My father had Alzheimer’s, reared its ugly head when I was nine months old (back then they called it a shrinkage of the brain). Leaving my middle-aged mother, who had already raised three children and had seven grandchildren, with me. I remember spending time with my father, him sitting me on his lap, tap dancing for me in the hearth just to see me smile, and reaching in his pocket and pulling out the only money he had – a dime to give to me. My mother was frustrated with his behavior because she said it wasn’t him. What brought me joy, just made her sad. Glad you can share your experiences with your mom. I enjoyed reading her story and I’ll keep her – and you in my prayers.


Julie Frayn June 13, 2015 at 11:55 am

It truly is shrinkage of the brain. And plaques apparently. Glad that your memories of him bring you joy. I agree with your mom, in that my mom is no longer MY mom – you know? Thanks for reading Abby, I appreciate your kindness.

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