Guest Author - Debbie Mandel
I was trying to make sense of Alzheimer’s, especially since I do mind/body work. I happened to be presenting a basic stress-reduction workshop at New York University’s Rusk Institute when the head clinician, the elder statesman of the group confided that Rusk believes that Alzheimer’s is a disease that compels a person to release the past. I was shocked to say the least to hear this interpretation of a neurological illness by a PhD. However, in my heart I knew he was right. Alzheimer’s is the ultimate disease of letting go. Memory fades, especially recent memory, compelling both the patient and the caregiver to live in the moment. If we read the latest emotional tools leading to happiness, living in the moment is right up there. No matter how hectic my day, or whatever turbulence I am experiencing: producing, doing workshops, writing, juggling children, a household, and a husband, the moment I step into the Alzheimer’s ward-time stops for me. A calm settles in my heart; I am in the moment. I visit my mother, my former confidante, sparring partner and roving commentator with lowered expectations. I do not expect her to be what she once was vibrant, feisty and thriving mentally and physically. Rather I have lowered my expectations to embrace the woman I see before me- who is still feisty, tough and vibrant. She is my mother viscerally. We hold hands and touch a lot. We rub noses like the Eskimos when I was a little girl. I bring her an ice-cream sundae and a few sundaes for the other women who sit around her table. She and the others delight in the treat, in the visit and my corny jokes. I am a star here. I take Kodak moments in my head to remember my mother at this stage. No matter what has dissipated, the core of maternal love is there. In spite of everything she has forgotten, she knows me even when she can’t say my name. Sometimes, she calls me her mother. And she is right on the mark because I have become her mother. Mother love is eternal.