Our family has Alzheimer’s disease. My Mum has the diagnosis but we all have the disease. My relationship with my mother has always been difficult but Alzheimer’s has made it even more complicated. Alzheimer’s, as far as I can see, is not just about memory loss, confusion and forgetting, some things get tightened up and expanded. She has never really liked me, now she dislikes me, but her dislike of me is as if on steroids.
My Dad says, “Just ask her how she is. She says you never ask how she is.” So I ask her how she is and she says, arms folded across her chest and with her angry tone, “I am fine. I don’t know why you ask. There is nothing wrong with me.”
I feel I should visit, for my Dad’s sake. He needs a break from it – from Alzheimer’s. But I put off going there. Even ‘though my rational mind knows it is Alzheimer’s and not her, her rejection and her hatred hurt me deeply. After being turned away – not turned away but not welcomed in – I drive away from the house broken hearted. Even my Dad says there is no hope for me with her.
I wonder, with a disease that is all about forgetting, how is it that she has made a new set of new memories for me. Apparently I hate Oklahoma which is where my younger sister lives and I want Mum’s Persian rug. For some time now I have been trying to steal it. These strange new memories do have a basis. Sibling rivalry was rife in our home when I was growing up. I fought my little sister for Mum’s attention. I scribbled on walls with my pencils and told on her. My sister was my enemy. My comment last year that no young tourist would want to go to Oklahoma they go to American cities like New York or LA or San Francisco has become “Oh but you hate Oklahoma.” I think this is really about sibling rivalry all those years ago.
My house with its bare polished boards is just waiting for that rug … the one I bought her as a gift, positioned proudly in the living room. Years ago I took up the carpet on a house I owned. Mum was furious. “We saved for years to carpet our house and you have just pulled yours up and thrown it out!” I am sure the Persian rug theft is related to that episode.
Whatever happens I can’t win. I couldn’t then nor can I now. Instead I ring my dad every so often and we chat. Mum, once the master of event management in our home, doesn’t remember how to answer the phone any more.