Alzheimer's, Family

You Really Only Need Three Words

You’ve by now heard a lot about Mom. The most recent update is that she is slowing down. Stuttering. Slurring words. And it’s noticeable. I went three days without talking to her because she couldn’t find her phone. I finally called the Home and spoke to her but she didn’t want to talk to me on “his” phone in her room in front of her new roommate. This I got out of her with yes/no questions because I know my mother.

I still understand “I love you” and she says it clear as a bell. I can still say things like “Mom, you are freaking me out not answering your phone!” and she’ll laugh. We are still in semi-clear waters. But there is a fog. I’m trying not to ignore that it’s going to get foggier. I’m trying to stick with the truth but also keeping faith. It’s a skill one builds.

In the musical, Hushabye, I track this long relationship between myself, Mom, and my mother as well as the additional familial relationships in the family deeply affected by her choices. As many stories go, the relationship begins in innocence:

BIRD Sings:
Did you know you are a Beautiful
And that I am the daughter of a queen


I have the best Mommie in the world
So beautiful. So Beautiful.
My friends don’t know how lucky I am
To have a better Mommie than the one that they have

I love to look at you
You have the loveliest nose
A pretty little face like my doll, Helen
What do they call it


And your eyes are blue
Just like a swimming pool

I have the best Mommie in the world
So beautiful. So beautiful.
And my friends don’t know how lucky I am
They don’t know I have a better Mommie than
Every single one of them

Do you know you are my Shining Star

The daughter of a queen

No less?
Did you know that means you are a princess?

BIRD: I’m a princess?

Yes you are a Princess Beautiful

And Queen Mommie is a Beautiful too

My shining star

Queen Beautiful Mommie

     BIRD exits with a curtsy and a twirl.

Dear little Bird
Who flew into my life
My little hummingbird
Fluttered to me
You saved my life
You brought life back to me

How can you ever really know
What grace you bestowed

No. I’m not sure she ever should be told.

Little Bird, little yellow songbird
I can never let you know
You swooped in to save my life
I can never let you know

I’ll never let you go

My yellow Bird…

And so it goes. And so it went. One day you’ll get to hear the music. Mom always calls me Bird or Birdy. And she’s the only one allowed to call me that. (Though there are some who try it on for size – it never fits.)

A few days ago she took a turn. I am still refusing to say “for the worse.” It’s my Glass Half Full personality. I promise I won’t lie to myself. I see what’s happening. But I spoke to her that night that she started to slur her words and couldn’t walk well. I understood nothing. It was as if she only had command over her vowels.

Then I heard it clear as a bell: “I love you.” Oh, Mom.

The next day her sentences were a bit clearer. A bounce back. But when she spoke to me she got hung up:

“Bir, Bir, Bir Bir….”

I know, Mom. I know.

I love you, too.