The last memories

Mom has been unusually calm these days. She has been a fighter against her Alzheimer’s, not going easily into the twilight world of forgetfulness and unable to accept her greatly diminishing physical abilities, so her peacefulness is a surprise. I am so happy she now allows me to take care of her, to sit outside watching the moon with her, to tuck her in bed with a kiss, without fussing and worrying about the horrors of old age. “Who said this is the ‘golden age,’” was her mantra.

There’s not much to say when I visit—since I come so often, there’s not much news, and I don’t like repeating myself endlessly anyway—but she loves my presence beside her. It makes her feel safe, despite the fact that those who work there are loving caregivers. The one thing she does remember that we can talk about together is her childhood. Thankfully, since I’ve written her stories into a book, I now know those stories better than she does so I can prompt her memories as well as join in.

Last night, sitting outside in the evening, Mom sang a Japanese children’s lullaby to the moon, over and over—the one I sing to her after I tuck the quilt around her at bedtime. “Mikazuki-sama, konban wa.” Today she talked about the old festivals of Japan. She sang an old folk song (again and again), swaying her hands to movements half-remembered. I stood up and did the beginning of the dance for her, the only part I could remember.

I’m so glad I have her old memories written down. And it is so beautiful to wrap the memories around us, holding us together as one. I think we are both at peace now, ready to face the future.

Note: this post was inspired by an article by Julie Redstone on Yvonne Perry’s blog, More Than Meets the Eye. The article is entitled The Challenge of Death and Dying – Caring for Aging Parents.

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About moonbridgebooks

Co-author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, a WWII Japan memoir of her mother's childhood; Co-author/Editor of Battlefield Doc, a medic's memoir of combat duty during the Korean War; life writing enthusiast; loves history and culture (especially Japan), and cats
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7 Responses to The last memories

  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Linda. My father has Alzheimers and is slowly but surely catching up with your mother. I haven't seen him in four years, since he first started showing signs of his illness and had to give up his job in Japan. Now we live an ocean apart. The best I can do, considering my own disabilities, is send him an etegami card each week, hoping to remain in his memory for as long as possible, and nursing my regret that I didn't learn more about his past while I still had the chance.

  2. Linda Austin says:

    I'm sorry about your father, Debbie. We have a couple photos of us family members in Mom's room to remind her who we all are. If your mother is still alive, she may know a lot of stories about your dad. Also, his brothers or sisters would be a great source of information.

  3. Keane says:

    This is an incredibly beautiful post. Best of luck to you and your family.

  4. Linda Austin says:

    Thank you very much.

  5. Linda,I think that as we get older, our childhood memories matter more and more. It's wonderful that you can share this with your mother and help her remember. The song is beautiful.Thinking of you…Lisa

  6. A rootdigger says:

    That is a great idea. I have been thinking of doing that as well. Yesterday a friend said her mother in law asked if her husband was dead. Not knowing what else to say, I suggested a little book with facts and maybe pictures so the mother could review. If she can read. I had wondered if it would work.

  7. Linda Austin says:

    Rootdigger, making a simple little booklet would be a helpful gift. Even if the mother can't read anymore, the photos will prompt her memory and any visitor can ask about the photos or read the text to her.

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