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Suzanne Simmons

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Stella Cameron

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Kate Douglas

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Jayne Ann Krentz, Photo credit Marc von Borstel
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Elizabeth Lowell
Elizabeth Lowell

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Carla Neggers

  • Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    A love letter to my mom.

    Dear M’ma,

    I’ve always felt lucky to have you as my mother. You were a steady, stable influence in my life, showing me by example what was important and what was just. . . stuff. I mostly appreciated that, even if you sometimes made me do things I didn’t like. Okay, I still don’t get the not letting me quit Brownies until I “flew up” to the Girl Scouts. You know I wasn’t cut out for that organization.

    Yeah, yeah, I know what you’d be saying if you were still you. “Get over it.”

    And, I have. Mostly. Because it's small spuds stacked against your smile, which lights up a room, or the fact that you gave me a foundation of laughter. Of security and values. That you built me a platform from which to grow.

    I have a million memories that I hoard deep in my heart. Of you waking me up at midnight the night of the sixth grade Mother/Daughter tea to have me tell Dad the compliment my schoolmate gave me about you. Of you holding me the night I heard on the radio that Judy Meehan had been killed in a car accident. Of the work you put in on that long coat you made to go over my prom dress and the shoes you covered in matching material.

    I can still picture your face on my wedding day when you gave me the locket Dad had given you on your eighteenth birthday. (I hope to someday give it to Christopher's wife). Can still feel the security of having you take care of the day to day stuff for us when we brought Chris home from the hospital—and a few months later when you took care of him while I was in a different hospital following my cancer surgery--as well as the rest of us during the recovery period.

    You racked up hours and hours baby sitting when Steve's and my budget stretched to cover either a night out or to get a sitter—but rarely both. I have a particularly fond memory of the weekend you took care of not only Christopher but Doug and Mimi’s boys as well—and taught them all to play poker. I think the oldest was about seven.

    But that's what kills me about Alzheimer’s—the memories that define our history have mostly disappeared for you now. You didn’t recognize Christopher when he picked you up on Sunday to bring you to our place. You asked me if I lived there--in the house I've been in for 39 years. We've seen too many people fall to this dementia. First Toni, then Jack, then Walt. Now you.

    I often wonder what era it is in your head these days. I'm guessing it's from a while back, since you think that Daddy is still alive if elusively distant and you wonder where your folks are. I know you’d rather still be in your own home than in the nice little group home we found for you, but it's a huge load off our shoulders knowing you’re safe. Things went downhill so damn fast this year. I knew that Ken and Ron and I stopping by pretty much daily and the nightly help we had for you was no longer enough the rainy night the police called me at 11 pm to say they’d found you wandering far from home. And I'm happy to see that you're not so lonely where you are now, with all the activities and your friend Esther.

    But, God, I hate this fricking disease. Because even though you're still here physically, the woman I knew is disappearing, piece by piece, in front of my eyes. And, God, I miss you, Mom.

    Love, SuSu Maria


    Blogger Sue G said...

    Susan, Beautiful and heartbreaking.

    9:57 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Amazing, Susan. I am in awe of you and the love you hold so dear that helps you endure this heartbreaking disease that takes your Mom away from you. I lost my Mom in 1995 to artery disease and I miss talking to her every day of my life. You get to see your Mom, but she's moving farther and farther away from you. So difficult to miss someone who can stand right in front of you. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family in this-that the strength of love and memories stay with you all always.
    Thanks for sharing these pictures of you and your beautiful Mom. And thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    Lynne Thomas

    10:53 PM  
    Blogger Rebecca Ringler said...

    Hi Susan - This disease is heartbreaking!! I used to see a lot of it when I worked in nursing homes. One woman's dtr explained to me that her mom might be in a bad mood because her feelings were just hurt, but she didn't remember what it was about. That makes me laugh a little, but our thoughts do determine our moods. I hate this disease! I would love to see a cure found for it, although I don't believe it would ever be widely publicized. I am a nurse, but a lot of people are profiting from sickness!!

    12:34 AM  
    Blogger Lori Foster aka L. L. Foster said...

    Absolutely wrenching. I felt every emotion behind the words. I'm so sorry for what you've lost, but how wonderful to know what you had!
    Your mom sounds like a truly amazing woman, the strong, steady, caring sort that we all strive to be.

    Thank you for sharing.
    Big, big hugs to you.


    5:28 AM  
    Blogger Jayne Ann Krentz said...

    Ah, Susan, I am crying too hard to write anything coherent. I, too, hate that damned mind-stealing disease. Please know that I am thinking of you.

    10:31 AM  
    Blogger Mary said...

    Susan, that broke my heart to read. While my grandmother didn't have this disease she did have a brain aneurysm (Blood clot) that burst in her brain and left her without her memories and much like a child.

    I don't know what it's like to live with this disease but I do know how heart wrenching it is to be physically with someone when they are mentally not with you anymore.

    11:54 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I too know what you are going through. My Mom has that horrible disease. I have a wonderful person taking care of Mom while I am at work, so I work 4 10 hour days, so that I am with Mom on Fridays, saturdays, and Sundays. MOst of the time now she wants to stay in bed, and wants to dream. I look after her and love her and wish I could talk to her like I use to, but that will never be. Everyday I see a part of her going and there is nothing I can do to stop it. I would give anything to have her the way she was 3 1/2 years ago, now I watch over her and make sure she eats (whatever I can get down her) Sleeps (make sure that she drinks at least some liquid over a 24 hour period) change her depends (and what ever has gotten wet), clean and change her ostomy bag. I try to keep her clean and happy. Payback for all the years she did it for me and my brothers. I love her so much and really do realize that I am doing for my Mom what so many others wish they could do for thier mothers but can't. but it is so hard, I cry a lot and just keep on going. She used to say that She wanted to go home. and I would say you are home, and she would look up to the sky and say that home, and I would say Unitl the good Lord comes and takes you home you are going to stay with me. Then Mom would look at me with a sad expression on her face and say Why won't he come for me. And I would answer because he is not ready for you yet. Now she can't say those things anymore,but she talks to and about people who have passed away. She is pulling away from this world slowly day,by day. It is heartbreaking. I sometimes wish I could just give her a pill and let her go to sleep and never wake up. It would be a relief for her.

    12:50 PM  
    Blogger Kate Douglas said...

    Susan, just too heartbreaking for words, and yet you've said it all so beautifully. I am so sorry for the loss you must be feeling every day.

    2:47 PM  
    Blogger Carla Neggers said...

    Thank you for putting all this into words, Susan. May there be a cure for this disease soon. I love the pictures! You and your mom are something. :-)

    2:55 PM  
    Blogger susan andersen said...

    Thank you for everybody's comments.

    Mary, you pretty much do know what it's like to live with this disease. Your mom's brain trauma shares very similar characteristics.

    Today was a good day. I took Mom out for a doctor's appointment and a drive and she was so tickled to be outside. And while she might not be able to remember a lot of stuff, she still has a sense of humor--
    which is one of the greatest gifts ever.

    6:48 PM  
    Blogger Kathleen O said...

    The memories are still there but just locked away from her. I hope they find a cure for this soon so she can unlock those memories. A couple of years ago I made up a memory book for my mother.. Just in case she finds her waning. But she is 82 and still going strong, Thank you God..

    8:38 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I lost my grandmother in 2007. She would have been 100 years old that year, but died few months before her birthday. I still miss her and I know how you feel, because like you, I lost my grandmother - the person - three years before death finally claimed her. When death came I cried but I had already done my grieving.
    There is nothing I can say that will make you feel better, but sharing your pain as well as the good memories with the ones you love might. So hold on to that.

    3:47 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Dea Susan,
    Beautifully written. I understand completely. My mother died last year. She suffered with dementia. We saw the deterioration for years. Then in 2000 she had a subdural hemotoma and it just put her over the edge. No more talking, no more laughing, no more recognition, no acknowledgement whatsoever. She didn't even flinch in pain if pinched. So, Susan, I understand and with all my heart I am sorry you are going thru this with her.

    6:43 PM  
    Anonymous Andrea "Hansen" Campbell said...

    Dear Susan,
    Mom just showed me this letter you wrote to your Mom, and one of my Mom's dearest friends. Some of my fondest memories are of Miami Beach,your wonderful Mom and Dad, digging for clams, picking oysters off the beach and learning to be one of the best tarbenders on the Canal!! I know my Mom misses her terribly. We are so lucky to have the memories, and the time spent with our Mothers. What a beautiful tribute to Bettie Bell!!!!
    Love ya,
    Andrea Greaves "Hansen" Campbell

    5:15 PM  
    Anonymous Eileen said...

    A beautiful letter and testament to the relationship you have with your mother. My mother in law is in the beginning stages of Dementia and she is still able to know something is wrong and it heartbreaking for me to watch. I have shared with her the cancer her son, my husband has battled, and the cancer her daughter has battled as well. I have stood beside her when she lost her husband and some of herself. I do not know if I can face this now as well. However, I must as it is a reality. Life is short and we must make the most of it. Thank you for sharing your letter.

    4:55 PM  

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