Changing Channels of Alzheimer’s

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Sometimes Mom’s communication reminds me of a radio where someone is turning the dial trying to find a station. She will say something so sweet one second, and then the next she will shout angrily. A few seconds later she might sound like an innocent child crying for her mama and in another few seconds be making nonsensical noises.  And you never know what “station” she’s going to be at or how quickly she’ll change to the next.

Except if you are trying to get her cooperation about a bath or something like it. Then you know she’s going to be on the angry station. Today she was yelling and swearing and shouting.  She was even using a mimicking and sarcastic voice to respond to me. So not like my sweet mama I grew up with.

At one point I told her, “Mom, I’m just helping you like you used to help me, when I was your little girl.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yes.  You used to help me take a bath every night. You were my mama and I was your little girl.”

“Well!”  She shouted, “I don’t know and I don’t care!”

It is just one of her phrases she says these days. I know she would have never said it to me before Alzheimer’s.  It’s not really her yelling at me now.  It’s the disease.  And I should be used to it.  And usually I am.

But sometimes it still hurts.

And it makes me think, with horror, that some children grow up with a mom saying hurtful things all the time, much worse than I’m hearing.  And their moms mean it.  And how do those poor children process that?

It reminds me too, of times I’ve lost it with my own children, and said hurtful things out of anger that I really didn’t mean.  And I would regret the words as they were coming out of my mouth. And I remember going back to my children and apologizing, and being so thankful for their forgiving hearts.

Words are such powerful things.

I wish I could somehow go back into the past and collect and record all the loving, thoughtful words Mom said to me when she really knew I was her daughter.  And then I could play them back over and over. I wish I had more things in writing.  I know Mom sent me letters when I was at camp—but I don’t know what happened to them. Cards have long vanished, too, though I don’t remember her writing much in them.

But I do have one thing Mom wrote to me.  She wrote inside the cover of a scrapbook she gave me when I was in my first high school play.  It says, in her lovely handwriting…

“We give this Scrap Book to you, Cheryl, so that you may preserve all your wonderful, happy memories of your High School Days.

May you always be the same sweet girl you are today and have always been.  Always trust in God and seek his guidance in each and every thing you undertake to do and I’m sure he won’t steer you down the wrong path.

May God always bless you- “


Mom + Dad

And oh… reading these words brings tender tears. The “station” is back at the mom who knew me and loved me so well. And the words she left me are just what I need. And I am so very, very grateful.









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