Last night we watched an episode of The West Wing titled “The Long Goodbye.” It dealt with CJ Craig’s trip back home…the rationale was to give a speech at a high school reunion, but underlying that was a desire to check on her dad who has Alzheimer’s.
The nickname for that disease is “the long goodbye…”
It was rather ironic that we watched that episode at this particular time, because we’re starting down that road with my mother. I don’t know that it’s specifically Alzheimer’s, but watching CJ interact with her father was so much like some of the interactions I’ve had with my mother.
She can still function in her usual routine in the home where she lives, and she can still get where she needs to go without getting lost. But her short-term memory is fading…and, to some extent, so is her long-term memory. When we visit for 10 minutes, we can have the same conversation 6-8 times–and each time is the first time for her. And if I call her later that day, we can again have the same conversation–again for the first time.
She’s also forgetting some things that she’s known for years…and hiding things in her apartment so well that we are unable to find them.
It is a long goodbye…
We went through this with my father-in-law–basically lost him two years before his body gave out. And I was hoping not to go through this again. But…
My father was mentally with us until a couple of hours before he took his last breath. And his sister is still living by herself…still active both physically and mentally at the age of 90. I had hoped that would also be true of my mother.
Having to parent your parent is difficult. She knows she is losing sharpness, but she also does not want to be treated as a child–understandably so–even though there are some aspects of her life in which that is becoming more necessary.
“The long goodbye…” I don’t know how long it will last, but it will be a lesson in loving, patience, and understanding.