Saturday, September 12, 2009


My mom has Alzheimer. She's somewhere in the middle stages where here short-term memory has faded away. She still knows who we are and can remember events from her past but she'll pick up the salad spinner we put on her kitchen counter, the one we brought with us from New York, and ask, ""Well what the heck is that?"
"Mom, it's for cleaning lettuce. You put lettuce in the basket and wash it under the sink. Then you put it back in the bowl and press the knob on top. It spins out the water leaving you with clean dry lettuce." I give the knob a push and set the spinner spinning.
"You don't need to plug it in? Well how does that thing stop?" I pull the top off and stop the spinner. Mom shakes her head in amazement and walks over to another counter, a rag in her hand, and wipes away some imaginary mar. I remain at the sink rinsing the evening's dishes. Two seconds later she's back by my side staring at the salad spinner, "Well what the heck is that?" and the explanation begins again. Eventually, if we repeat it often enough, she'll remember or become comfortable with the spinner sitting on her kitchen counter. We have good days and bad ones. My mom is now a creature of habit. Everything has its place and change is feared. Thank God for what my family has been  able to provide for her.
For years mom has worked at my brother's stained glass studio. Being idle is my mom's biggest fear. After my dad died she took up residence at at my brother's studio, cleaning new windows, running the till, joking with customers, and keeping the store organized. As the dementia began to creep in, her ability to first run the till, then to clean the windows slowly slipped away. The studio is now more elder care for her where she goes and wanders from room to room, a cleaning rag in her hand, looking for imaginary dirt, proud she has a job. The smiles continue to cross her face as she jokes with customers and tickles the heads of the little kids who come in at the hands of their parents. She still has her laugh and her pride.
I now am the one who takes her to work in the morning. She is still asking, "Do I go to work today? When's Bonnie coming to pick me up?" But lately she's also been saying, "Are you taking me?" She's putting us into her routine, becoming comfortable with our presence in her world.
Yesterday Bonnie had to work late so I picked my mom up from work. First, I had to get Emmy from school and the two of us then drove to Light Haus, my brother's studio, to pick mom up. It was one of those perfect early September summer days in the late afternoon. The beltline in Madison can be brutal at rush hour so we decided to drive home through town. Traffic was slow but moving. We drove with the windows open, the seventy-two degree breeze floating through the car. I drove, my mom in the front seat beside me, and Emmy in the back. Rick was back at home preparing dinner. We had gotten to the corner of Atwood Avenue and Fair Oaks where the traffic had been reduced to single file. We were stuck in line at the red light when this woman approached the car. She had a cardboard box in her hands, "We're just closing and I didn't want these cupcakes to go to waste, would you like to take them home?" She handed the box marked Daisy Cafe & Cupcakery through the window to my mom, smiled and waved good-bye as she walked back to the cafe. We were too dumbfounded to do more than say thank you as the light changed and we moved ahead. Emmy opened the box and inside were four amazing cupcakes, two with raspberry icing swirls, one with blueberry and the last dusted with chocolate sprinkled over its crown of mocha frosting. Why she picked us was what we all tried to figure out as we drove on toward home. Was it my mom's startling beauty, it was Wednesday her day to have her hair done? Was it our newly washed eight-year-old Ford Escort that caught her eye or was it fate that made her hand over four beautiful cupcakes to a quartet of poor souls who wouldn't have had any dessert that night but for the kindness of a stranger.
Karma is real. All good deeds will eventually be rewarded

1 comment:

  1. Lee, I'm Lisa and Barry's fiend-Brian. I just wanted you to know what an inspiration you are and have been.You can do this, I'm sure of that.I think extreem strife will breed extreem success,you guys did it once, and you know so much more now! This experience won't harm your beautiful daughter, but make her a force to be reckoned with,especially with all the love she has from her family-a lucky lady.I'm sending all good thoughts to you,if it helps to know... and I think you're a good writer as well!My very Best-Brian