We were a ghoulish family. The subject of death and dying was an everyday conversation and we kept Alzheimer’s at bay through humor. We made jokes about how we would end Dad’s life when his time came. (My plan was a leaky dinghy in a rough sea to check the crab pot.)
Mom, who was coping with her mother’s increasingly severe dementia, repeatedly warned us never to let her become a burden. In fact, she was determined that we should kill her “if I ever get like that.”
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I used to associate Alzheimer’s with death.
But now not so much…
True, Mom and Dad both “got like that.” True, the specter of Alzheimer’s hangs over everyone in my generation. And it would be untrue to say it doesn’t scare me. (Just try taking the peanut butter test and see how you feel.)
But what I really fear is the prospect of being alone and poor and at the mercy of a country that fails to recognize us as people capable of joy and discovery.
So what do I do? I tell Mom’s story and share her art. While Alzheimer’s is scary, art isn’t. One look at Mom’s paintings and you see the humor and the joy.
And maybe, just maybe, we will think twice before we warehouse our elders to be forgotten and bored.
That’s my plan. Love Mom—enjoy her, share her journey and hope that someone will share mine.