My father died of Alzheimer’s on March 2, 2009. As he slipped into dark confusion during the final years of his life, much of my mother began to slip away, too. Dementia blurred her short- term memory, and she stopped writing, meeting with friends, and participating in the church that always meant so much to her. Some of the same nursing staff who’d cared for my dad also became her caregivers.
Four years ago, I promised my mother I would drive from Colorado to Kansas every month to visit her. I’ve missed only five months, and when we talked on the phone, she didn’t seem to realize my absence. The tide was turning, and during the past year I’ve often wondered if my long drives between Colorado and Kansas are making a difference for her.
The only thing I’m certain of each month is that within a few hours after I leave, Mom won’t remember I was there.
But I remember.
And I want my daughter and my grandchildren to remember, too, what an amazing grandmother and great-grandmother they have.
Oscar Wilde wrote that memory is the diary we all carry with us. These letters to my mother, Mary Elizabeth Hoover Shepherd, are excerpts from a diary of our visits each month, and the surprising gifts they unwrapped for me about my mother’s life ~ the life that has so strongly influenced my own.