Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Fatal Headache


Since Sunday, Mother's Day, I've been a daughter (blue) more than a mother (proud) or a human being (reasonably content).

"Your arms are thick and flexible," observed my mother, in a moment of clarity on Sunday.
In response, I held out my arms (I was wearing a bright red sweater) and did a series of arm exercises for her. She smiled at that.

"It's very easy to lie down on the rug on the books," she said. I wonder what this meant. She used to read many books. She encouraged us to read books. In her final years as a reader, she went through Reader's Digest Condensed Books like water. I'm not clear on what she meant by lying down on the rug on the books, but it's a whole sentence, and that's good.

"[Unintelligible] happened to Germany?" she said softly. I took it as a concrete question and answered it in the context I knew she used to be keenly interested in. "Germany was devastated by the war," I said. "It was defeated and divided into East and West. It was rebuilt, and later it was reunified."

She stared at me. I stared at her. Where would we go next? I was pleased we were having a conversation.

Later that night, I Googled "Alzheimer's stages" and surfed the medical websites, learning about my mother's brain. I learned about dying neurons and tangles and the slowly shriveling brain. This is my mom, I thought as I watched the illustrations of the brain areas being destroyed by protein plaque and tangled up nerve endings.

Fifty percent of the blood in our bodies flows through a mighty mass of vessels in our heads when we are thinking hard, planning, organizing, writing, exercising the brain. Vivid sparks of life transmit information. It literally lights up.

My mother's brain is like a spaceship with its systems shutting down. The mainframe computer has a virus. Last to go will be the engine room, trying to propel the ship in darkness.

She has entered stage six of Alzheimer's seven stages. The ability to form words will keep her there in stage six. Words are precious connections between the brain and the world. When the brain fails to make words, the body systems begin to fail. In stage seven, only sounds can be made, and the brain loses its ability to voluntarily move muscles. Physical deterioration follows relentlessly.

I woke with a headache this morning, but my head is full of words. Words keep us alive. How do you like that?

~~~~~~

22 comments:

chitowngreg said...

There are some things we'd just as soon not know so much about, but you've been just great being there for you Mother. Hang in there!

Marla said...

I like that.....very much. Praying for you and your mom.

RNSANE said...

You are wonderful, Chris. I was sad not to be able to see my mother this Mother's Day. My brother and his wife were out for Alex's wedding but my nephew went to see mom, who, of course, had no idea who she was.

Maybe, by the time, my son's reach the age to develop this disease, there will be a cure.

Beth Niquette said...

Powerful poignant. Your words are so beautifully crafted--like a smooth stone in rippled waters.

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

A very compelling post, chronicling a day in the demise of a mind, a personality, a life... with words as the last line of defence. And throughout the mother-daughter link stays powerfully true to itself.

The image suggested by It's very easy to lie down on the rug on the books" also has staying power of its own.

Yes, the bible says that "in the beginning was the word" ... and in the end?

Brian Miller said...

words do keep us alive...
heaviness today after reading...
thoughts and prayers for you both...

Syd said...

I like that words keep us alive or at least the thoughts of words as there are those who are mute and can't say the words. I do feel sad though about your mother. And sadness for you as you hold onto what is left of her mind and words. It is very hard to see the ones who gave us life wither away.

Magpie said...

Oh, I share your "blueness". Such a sad, terrible, cruel disease. You and your mother bear your burden well. I am praying God is merciful in your Mom's remaining time and in healing your heart and spirit.

Collette said...

I never realized there were so many stages.
My grandma must know that words are very important because she talks very fast & always does crosswords.
(((HUGS)))

TechnoBabe said...

You are learning so much and sharing that with us. Maybe your headache is associated with your heartache.

Monkey Man said...

Keep the words coming, Chris. I so feel for you in this situation. Love your mother for who she was and who she is.

The Bug said...

I remember my grandmother having nonsensical conversations - those girls won't let me help with the corn (talking about her daughters)... She ended up having a stroke so she never lost her words.

I admire you for being there for your mother...

e said...

Hi Chris,

I'm glad you had some time with your mother on Sunday, you are wonderful with her and I think of you both often.

Karen said...

Keep writing and posting your words for us, Chris. I hope it will help you to talk it out here.

Gabriella Moonlight said...

I am so thrilled you had this time with your mom, what strikes me about this is that as she shares you remember for her, the joy of who she still is and the gifts she still shares with you...yes words are the gift...your words...thank you
love
gabi

Nana Jo said...

Your words are a gift to me. I've never read such a compellingly beautiful piece on Alzheimers. I'm reminded somehow of the Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams ... "But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

Your mother is so very real ... and so are you.

Shadow said...

words. what would we do without them....

Scott said...

I love words so much...

I love that you're learning about mom and you can understand what she's going through. This might not bring an end to your pain but I think it may ease it a bit since you know she's going through a really unfortunate but, biological process.

May God be with you both through this.

the walking man said...

This is a hard thing you have to do Chris but if not you then who? soon enough.

Patty said...

{{{{{{{{{Chris}}}}}}}}}

steveroni said...

I agree with Patty: {{{{{C}}}}}

Chris, you (nor I) have no clue as to how many you help--including yourself?-- by sharing with us these "Conversations with Mom"...

Thank you, and please keep writing!
And loving.

Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

Your posts so remind me of what it was like losing my stepdad bit by bit. The things that worried him, like thunderstorms causing trees to fall, just intensified, but he was always the easy going kind of guy and that stayed with him the longest...

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