My mom, steeped in Alzheimer’s and fuzzy about many things, was starting to grasp this thing.
He had been her husband since she was 15 years old. She always remembered that. And now her man of 55 years was gone?
For years and years, he was why she’d have a home-cooked meal on the table at 5:00 when he got home from NASA.
He was why she’d put lipstick on every afternoon right before 5:00.
He was why she felt safe and cared for and loved.
Now it was up to us kids to keep her feeling safe and cared for and loved.
Today was my day to take her to the dentist. She didn’t want to go. She had stopped wanting to go anywhere. And certainly not to the dentist.
It was no easy task getting her there. Only one thing made it easier.
She would take my dad with her.
She had a photo of him that she’d been looking at all day. So she taped that photo right on to the front of her shirt.
That’s how we went to the dentist.
The receptionist and hygienist smiled when they saw her—and Daddy—his picture taped prominently over her heart. They knew our family well. The dentist smiled too.
Mama told them that she was keeping Keith close to her. They understood.
She wore the shirt, with Daddy’s picture taped to it, the rest of the day, that night, and the next day. My sister Liz was able to borrow the photo long enough to have it copied on a sweatshirt that Mama could wash and wear.
So when I hear it said, “It’s okay to divorce your spouse if they have Alzheimer’s,” I think, “Not okay! How devastating that would have been to my mama.” And to my dad.
And to me.
If there’s one thing my dad could have done to lose my respect quicker than anything, it would have been to abandon my mom in her greatest time of need.
Only by death—not by choice—did he leave her side.
I respected him for that.
Seven short months later, they were side by side again.
This time with restored minds and perfect bodies.
Way past his cancer and far beyond her Alzheimer’s.
They had been faithful.
To each other.
To the Father.
To the end.
Marriage doesn’t get more sacred than that.
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Remembering my sweet Mama today on Alzheimer’s Action Day.
Please read Trisha’s response to Pat Robertson’s words. She says all the things I wanted to say.