Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What's in a name anyway?

I think I've finally accepted the fact that Mama doesn't know who I am.
She knows I'm Lisa. Asks for Lisa, gets upset when Lisa leaves. But she really doesn't know who Lisa is.
Yesterday was my birthday. After I sat with Mama and Daddy while they ate supper, I walked with Mama to the living room to say good bye. She didn't want me to leave and started crying a little bit. I put my arms around her shoulders and made sure we were making eye contact so she could concentrate on what I was saying. I explained that it was my birthday and I was going home to have a birthday meal with my family. No response, no facial change, no "happy birthday!"
"Do you remember when I was born?" I asked her. "No," she answered. "Did you know I was your first baby?" See looked at me with a confused expression. She sort of laughed softly and responded again: "No."
I looked over at the sitter. "She has no idea I'm her daughter, does she?" She shook her head, agreeing with my assessment.
I didn't cry over this. It wasn't a big revelation.
Alzheimer's confuses so many things. Mama has no idea of relationships. No idea that Reggie is my husband, for instance, but she loves Reggie and asks for him by name.
Mama may not know I'm her firstborn child, but she knows I love her and that I'm going to look after her, and that's all that counts. Really. She knows when I come to see her that I'm bringing supper or the groceries or arms that wrap around her in a hug and hands that clasp hers as we walk. She knows she can count on me and trust me.
I tell her that often when she worries about nightfall approaching. She's scared for it to grow dark, sad that I'm going home to my husband and children. I reassure her that she will never be alone again, that she can trust me to do what's best for her and Daddy. She nods and assures me she's doing the best she can, too.
Who can ask for anything more?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Mother's Day card

I was close to Lynn’s Hallmark Tuesday afternoon, so I decided to go in and buy a Mother’s Day card.
I’m not sure who I was buying it for. Me, I guess.
My mom will not realize it’s Mother’s Day, I said to myself. She will not understand, I don’t think, when I explain it to her. And the significance of the card will mean nothing to her. I’ll hand her the card, kiss her and say “Happy Mother’s Day.” She won’t know how to open it, although it won’t be sealed, and when I hand it to her, she will turn it over and try to figure out what it is and how to open it. I’ll point out the pretty picture on the front and read the verse, and she will look at me with a blank stare or will look beyond me, not really hearing me.
Please don’t think I’m cruel in my description, but that’s how it is in this late stage of Alzheimer’s. Things that used to be so important to her — and that includes special greeting cards — have absolutely no meaning to her now. Not a speck.
But there I was, standing in the Mother’s Day aisle at Lynn’s, looking for a perfect card for my beloved mama. I could feel the knot in my throat before I picked up the first card. The knot turned to tears as soon as I read the message. It was something about Mom being the first person I call when I need someone, when I’m happy or sad.
“Oh my God, I can’t do this,” I said, knowing full well that Mama was always the first person to hear my good news and my bad. She was my rock. As her mind deteriorated, I stopped turning to her because it was too hard for both of us. Hard for her because she couldn’t comprehend or help me. Hard for me because she couldn’t comprehend or help me.
Up until maybe six months ago, I still told Mama my problems and concerns. I’d look her in the eye, and she’d look back (something she hardly ever does now.) She pretended she understood what I was saying. I pretended she understood what I was saying. I felt a little better. She felt a little better. It’s all very pitiful, isn’t it?
Anyway, back to Hallmark. My eyes roamed the pretty pastel cards with flowers on them, the ones with people on them. Wonder which one wouldn’t make me cry? But one caught my eye. A young girl with short blond hair peered from the corner of a card.
That child looked just like me and just like my daughter, for that matter! I couldn’t believe it. I picked it up, read the sentiment. Something about trying on Mom’s high heeled shoes. I did that! Every little girl has done that. But it didn’t really matter what the card said, it was the card I was buying. Somehow, it cheered me up knowing how excited my daughter would be to see the card because I knew she’d get it.
I’ll give Mama that card on Mother’s Day. She won’t recognize how much the child on the card looks like Anna and me, and I’ll probably cry again.
But I’ll give her a hug and a kiss anyway because she’s my mama, and I love her like no one else.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Farm Fresh

I had another new grocery store experience today. I went to Farm Fresh, along with half the population of Wilson County!
The new store is really nice. Beautiful floors, nice decorative touches. And the food is so fresh and enticing.
I was especially drawn to the baked goods section, where fresh breads are bountiful. I tried a sample of focaccia and didn't hesitate to purchase my own tomato and cheese loaf. The pastries also caught my eye; I'll be back for turtle cheesecake!
There were other features drawing the attention of shoppers, including a salad bar loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables, an entire bar of prepared salads, and a hot bar featuring a variety of chicken wings. Can't wait to try those!
The sandwiches looked delicious in the deli section; I'll go back for the roast beef panini, especially since they'll toast it for me.
I was especially intrigued by one display: a refrigerated display case filled with fresh pet food.
There were several product names I wasn't familiar with, but my favorite brands were there. I was very glad to see a large display of a family favorite: Edy's frozen fruit bars, including tangerine, which is hard to find. I was also shocked to stumble upon a rack of See's candy's. A dear cousin used to send my Mama See's chocolates every Christmas. They were delicious.
Between Farm Fresh and the new Harris Teeter, Wilson shoppers have a lot more choices and two pretty new places to shop.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Meeting Sarah Dessen

I've been to a lot of booksignings and author readings over the years, first as an English major at Atlantic Christian College and in later years as a reporter at The Wilson Daily Times. Some of the authors who come to mind are Alan Gurganus, Bland Simpson, Clyde Edgerton, Tim McLaurin, Margaret Maron and Sharyn McCrumb. I loved their books and I loved their talks.
I became almost addicted to McCrumb's books soon after her reading at Barton College. And I have a happy grin on my face each time I hear Margaret Maron read from her popular Judge Deborah Knott series.
Saturday, I got to hear an author whose books I've never read. My daughter, Anna, has read them, though.
The young adult fiction author is Sarah Dessen. Her books include "Just Listen," "The Truth About Forever," "That Summer," "This Lullaby" and the new one, "Lock and Key." Dessen has quite a following among her teenage fans, many of whom turned out for the reading at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh Saturday. They had books in their arms and questions on their mind.
I enjoyed listening to the girls ask Dessen about her characters, her inspiration, how she first got published. The girls were smiling, Dessen was smiling, the parents were smiling. It was all such a fun, rewarding experience for all of us. Here were close to 100 people, I guess, on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon talking about BOOKS! Who would have thought...
I was close to the desk where Dessen signed books at the end of her talk, and I heard the girls tell Dessen how much her books meant to them. I listened in amazement as girls told how many states they had traveled to be at the talk Saturday.
Even before Saturday, I had wanted to thank Sarah Dessen for doing something no other author has ever done for my daughter; she has helped Anna realize it's possible to love books, to love to read. Before she read Dessen's books, she looked at reading as a chore, something she had to do for an English class. She honestly couldn't imagine what her dad and I found so rewarding about reading a good book. She read slowly and hated every minute. Yet, she zips through Dessen's books, absorbing the story and loving the experience. She "gets" it now.
So, thank you Sarah Dessen. Thank you for taking time out of your own Saturday afternoon to make dozens of teenage girls happy. Thank you for writing books that young girls enjoy. Thank you for opening up the world of books to by child.