Alzheimer's, Family

Loving in the Moment – When the Children Become the Parents (Alzheimer’s Part 4 of 4)

Annie and I at Mass the morning after our Aunt passed away. We would be telling Mom today. We decided to brave the selfie after we’d been sobbing for a good hour.

This is part 4, and the final piece of the story about moving my mother into a home for people with Alzheimer’s. If you haven’t already you’ll want to catch up by going here to part one. Because the cliffhangers (and yes, it all really happened this way) are too good to jump them. (Part 2, Part 3.)

I arrived Friday, then spent all day Saturday with Mom in her new home for people with Alzheimer’s. By Saturday night our aunt had gone, unexpectedly, into the hospital.

By Sunday morning our aunt, Mom’s only sister, was gone.

Folks these are the moments in life that can only be described as biblical. And really there’s nothing to do but fall to your knees and show your Maker that you know Who is in charge and that it is mighty in your eyes.

What to do.

We had to get the rest of the move completed. We had to stay on course. Then we would all go together to see Mom and break the news. Unbelievable. Meanwhile our cousins are grieving the unexpected loss of their mother. And everything feels so disparate and yet supernaturally cohesive. We are in Houston. They are in Dallas. All of us experiencing grief and loss. All of us being über grown ups.

A lot of hand holding. I had to sneak this shot.

It took longer than expected to get the move done. As moves go. We finally made it to Moms by 5pm. Much later than we wanted. Annie and I arrived first. Sat with Mom on the front porch. Waving off the smoke. Svelting in the Texas heat. Annie and I speaking telepathically with our eyes. Do we tell her? No wait ‘til the other two arrive. There is nothing worse than not telling someone something they must know. 10 minutes, and an eternity in, the other two arrive. And the tension … intensifies. Unbeknownst to Mom. Who quickly began her worried laundry list of wrongs of this new horrid place with the Old People. We went inside and all sat in her bedroom. Mom talked a bit trying to describe a few things that she could not remember the names. We played a quick game of charades. Got the final answer – “vitamins”. And then there was silence.

You see no one had thought to decide exactly who would be the harbinger of the bad news. There was a beat. And then slowly everyone turned their head to Renée.


“Ok. Well I guess everyone’s looking at me…” Even in the darkest moments God graces us with the delight of ill-placed humor. We would laugh about this moment on more than one occasion later on.

So Renée broke it to Mom with the sweetest aplomb.

“Mom. We have some bad news.”


“We have to tell you some really sad news.…”

Mom was shocked. And cried.

“I was going to call her… Oh my God….”

After the initial moment of shocked grief passed. We breathed. A moment of silence. And then:


Good evening, Friends! Welcome to the wonderful dark world of your Mom’s brain going batty with Alzheimer’s. Yes, Siree, your sister has died, you cannot remember the thing that goes into the thing with the thing on it where your things are and that DAMNED TV HAS COMMERCIALS!

My brother dipped his head and put his fingers to his inner eye ducts. He was there for a good 10 seconds. When his head came back up his eyes were red. Reality was hitting all in the gut in different time zones.

The next day one of the nurses confided to me that Mom had told her about her sister passing away. So it did hit deeply. But we never know when or what things will surface.

Day 3: Mom ventures out into the kitchen after being told the 110th time that she only has to go out there to get what she wants. That it’s not a totalitarian government in her new home. Just tell the nurse.

We watch another minor miracle: she gets brave and goes in for the pudding.

We follow 10 feet behind. She asks. The nurse of course goes to the fridge.

But there is a bigger miracle looming. There is a room off the kitchen with a woman who is bed-ridden. But the door is always open. This is one of the “Old People” Mom complains about. This Old Person beckons the nurse. But what happens next has our eye balls popping out of their sockets.

“What?” my mom is inquiring toward this woman’s voice. “What do you need?” And then, wonder of wonders, Mom takes a full two steps into this woman’s room.

And then she walks fully into this woman’s room! And listens. Annie and I are stunned. I see a miracle happening before my eyes and I’m thinking Glory Hallelujah!

Then with all the puff of one who has accomplished the task no one else could, Mom walks back out and says to the nurse, “She needs you.” Her job as the new über Mother of the house completed.

Soon we begin to witness that this place has got my mother more active than she’s been in the last 10 years. We’d begun on Friday. It was only Monday. Oh, there’s still complaints about the food, the thing (cigarette lighter) etc, etc… But there are people everywhere. Caring for her. We are able to be there more often because she is now located where we can see her more easily. And this is good news.

Because the changes aren’t over.

Annie has spent the last 4 years living with Mom. And it’s time for this bird to fly the nest. She will be leaving in 2 weeks to be closer to friends and even closer to me in North Carolina. And Mom knows it. And she’s sad. A move into a nursing home, a sister gone, a daughter moving on…how much change can one person handle?

I was supposed to leave on Tuesday. I was a wreck. I left in the rental car and mistakenly drove 15 minutes in the opposite direction away from airport. I sobbed out of desperation and faith and beckoned the Blessed Mother. I said nothing but Mary! Mary! Mary! Exhausted, lost, grief-stricken with no words for prayer. But Mary would know and she’d tell the Father. Even though He was listening the whole time. 

I rolled my suitcase into the ticket area. My phone went off. Plane delayed an hour. I walked up to the ticket counter. “Would it be possible to change my flight?” They explained that since my plane was delayed due to weather and it was the airline’s fault that I could change my flight for free. I changed it to Thursday. My family picked me up 20 minutes later. Thank you, Mother. Thank you, Lord.

I was much better by the time I left for real. I have talked to Mom every single day since I’ve come home. So far so good. Don’t ever ask her what movie she’s watching unless you want a game of Password on your hands that could use all your cellular monthly data.

Yesterday she asked me what I do for a job. She knows what I do. She’s always known. But she’d forgotten.

Because now she’s going to forget things.

And people.

I reminded her what I do and she said “Oh yes. I knew that.” Yes, she’s right. She knew that.

But I don’t care. Because she knows me.


So I will call her every day.

And we’ll just love in the moment.

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