Winter chills and cuddles always seem to go together. I crawled onto the bed, beside Aaliyah last night when I saw her tears frozen on her cheeks and her eyes distant and cold. I hugged her and fresh tears rolled out from her eyes. The mist was all over dampening my hands, my shirt, the quilt and my heart. Something wasn’t right, I was clueless and I panicked, had I missed something? Her pain was important to me as much as her smile.
I was worried and I gazed in her eyes for an answer. She managed to say, “Mom” and I connected the dots. She had driven down to her mother for the weekend. Her mum is suffering from Alzheimer and it is devastating for Aaliyah and her siblings for having to remind their mom who they were.
She lay their expressing her sadness in words fragmented by overwhelming emotions and I held her understanding each one of them. I wish I could help her but sometimes you have to feel the pain to let it go.
She had beautiful memories with her mum. Her mother has always been a woman of substance, giving and yet furiously independent. She couldn’t complete her education for lack of resources when she was young so she went to the University with her daughters and wrote papers and celebrated her graduation more than the girls. She was always in charge of her family and was the director of her daughters’ lives. Aaliyah recalls her sixteenth birthday when her mum had made a delicious Chocolate Cheese Cake which was devoured by her ravenous friends even before she could blow the candles. Her eyes sparkled when she recalled the sound of her mother’s laughter. It was so comforting and it always put Aaliyah in a state of wellness and security. She felt the world was a good place to be in. Her mum would never quit even if she wanted to because her daughters were watching her closely, she went on and on with the challenges of life. Her mom always said, “I want you to be happy.” Aaliyah recalled and said, “I want her back, I want to go beyond the empty face.”
I realized how much the emotion and expression defines joy in a relationship. For caregivers and relatives of the person suffering from Alzheimer it’s an ordeal. I asked her, “when was the last time she responded to you?” She recalled, “Once when I hugged her, she looked into my eyes and gave me a warm smile of knowing, the smile I was so used to since my childhood.”
I believe in the power of touch, in the impact of a hug and in the intent of sharing and loving and not wavering for the lack of response.
Next morning, I woke her up at the break of dawn and announced, “We are driving down to the memory care home.” “Now?” She asked. I nodded and said, “Yeah now to Say Hi To Mom and give her a big, warm hug.” She hopped out said, “yup and let me start it with you!”