For Chip: He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion. —Unknown

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Disease and The Gift

I entered the restaurant that my mom went to once a week.  I was meeting my cousin and her caretaker to relive the lunches we had  before my mom passed away.  I was a bit disappointed that the candy that was once in the big decorative bowl had been changed to regular red and green mints.  My mom used to fill her pockets with brightly colored candy until it was dropping on the floor.

My cousin, Alice and her caretaker entered the restaurant dripping wet after a sudden thunderstorm.  I held my cousin's hand and lead her to their usual table.  Alice said she did not know me while sitting next to me.  I told her I was her aunt's daughter, but she had no recall.  She pointed at pictures on the wall of the restaurant and  wanted many of the things we saw.  Her mind wandered rapidly from one topic to another.

People with Alzheimer's must not require much food.  She barely ate at all. She loved the coffee.  I cut up her enchilada, but she was more distracted by people and objects.  She said she wanted me to stay with her.  She was beginning to remember me or maybe she thought I was a safe person now.  Her caretaker constantly encouraging her and listening to her every desire. I was impressed with her patience.

We left the restaurant together and drove aimlessly for hours looking at flowers and renovated houses.  Wouldn't I like to move back and be closer to the few family I have left?  A normal conversation was impossible and at the same time exhausting.  Speaking to a child would be easier.
We  stopped at the caretaker's daughter's house.  Her daughter was extremely artistic and creative.  She was embarrassed of her messy apartment, but all I saw was interesting pieces of art.  It was a joy to see a bohemian style apartment in the midst of the realization that Alice would never be the same. 

At the end of the day I gave Alice a blue and white painting from her aunt, my mom.  It had a beautiful white carved frame.  It was more beautiful now than I had remembered.  I gave no thought to it's beauty when I threw it into the car.
As soon as I gave it to her she said "How did I get this?"  "Where is Aunt Agnes?"  Tears began to stream down her face with her blonde hair shining.  Her caretaker broke into tears seeing my cousin so touched.  I knew then that the caretaker really did care for her patient and also friend.  I had to leave quickly with goodbyes and well wishes before I became uncontrollably teary. 

I was sorry I had waited so long to give her the gift.  The painting meant more to her than I ever would have imagined.  The gift touched my heart as well.