By Carol Hamilton
When I was young my mom stayed at home and raised my brother and me. She cooked and baked, and her house was so very clean. She was there when I needed her in every way. At one point growing up she had to go to work, but she was at home when we’d get back from school to help us in any way.
Then my dad got sick and he wanted to move back to his hometown in Pennsylvania. Off they were to their new life. About a decade later, in 1987, my dad passed away from heart disease, and Mom was alone for the first time in almost 40 years. My dad was 61. My mom, 63, had established her life there and decided to stay in Pennsylvania.
Mom had many friends and relatives there, and also became heavily involved in her church. She was always there with a friendly smile and a “hello” to everyone. She would always say, ”It doesn’t cost anything to give a smile.”
I would visit her when I could, but she kept busy with friends and traveling. She had a great life and could do these things. Then one day when I was visiting her, I noticed that the house was not as clean. She had expired food in her cupboard. The refrigerator had molding food in it. Her closets were full of clothes with tags still on them. She was about 88 at the time, so I just chalked it up to age.
Then the urinary tract infections started, very severe, and she became unresponsive when she had them. We would have to scramble to Pennsylvania because she was rushed to the hospital.
Thank goodness for the friends and relatives who watched out for her, though that couldn’t last forever. Her friend called me to say she was moving to be closer to her daughter and that she could not look out for my mom anymore. She said Mom could no longer be left alone.
So, we packed Mom up and moved her to be close to us. She lived in a senior complex apartment. At first my brother and I tried to take care of her, but it was very difficult. We needed help. We hired some wonderful ladies who took very good care of my mom. During this time, I had breast cancer and became very worn out during the treatment.
The UTIs kept coming and her mind kept deteriorating. The aides told us we had to get professional care for her, 24/7. Now at 95 she has been in a memory care unit for one and a half years. The people there take wonderful care of her. Some days are good; some are bad. Some days she eats; others she does not, though if you put a chocolate milkshake in front of her, she won’t refuse.
I never got to tell her about my cancer, about the boy she used to babysit passing away, about her dear friend who had a heart attack and is now gone or about the accomplishments of my grandchildren.
My mom who I used to talk to is no longer there. I have a new mom who sometimes knows who I am and sometimes does not.
She sings, but only mutters random letters. She talks about how green the grass is or how blue the sky looks, but not much more. She’s uncomfortable with strangers and talks very little to other residents where she lives. She doesn’t remember my dad, my husband, her grandson, or any of her friends.
This is my new mom, because Alzheimer’s took my other mom away.
Carol Hamilton is a retired employee of the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District.