The Purse of Wonder

My mom always had a large collection of purses. She and my dad traveled a lot and she was often in search of the best travel purse. Then, she would pick up purses in their different destinations or on the cruise ships. When we first moved her from her house, we brought a few of her purses with her. Over the last year, we have removed them so that she now has just one purse. She would lose things, like her keys or her lipstick or her wallet, and we would end up looking everywhere for them, including in all of the purses. She always wants a purse with her, but she really didn’t need several.

Mom, with purse, posing by the fall scene at her place.

So, now she has one, but it does have several compartments, so it still makes it interesting when she is looking for things. Only now, she will go to look for something and really have no idea what she is looking for in all of the compartments. So, we remind her what she is looking for and she continues. This sometimes goes on for quite some time.

The latest fun thing is that we never know what is going to be in the purse! Sometimes there are sticks that she picks up from outside, sometimes her change is loose all over her purse instead of being her wallet. Sometimes there is a toothbrush or an old treat from the vending machine. Recently, I looked in her purse to make sure she had sunglasses, as we were going outside, and there was a bra! As my sister pointed out, you really never do know when you might need an extra bra.

Mom with purse walking my dog by the woods

Yesterday, I went there and we took a longer walk. The weather had finally turned cooler and so I thought it would be great to go for a nice walk by the woods and the stream. I brought my dog and off we went. She was doing well, analyzing what the dog was thinking and feeling. We stopped by the main creek area for a bit and listened to the rippling of the water. The way back is mostly uphill and my mom started sweating. We stopped to rest and she opened her purse to find a tissue. She could not find one, so after a minute more we kept going, heading back to her place. Just as we approached the parking lot, she opened her purse again to look for a tissue. “Aha,” she said, “I found it.” I was feeling relieved and then surprised as she pulled a little Mickey Mouse out of her purse!

A tissue, aka Chef Mickey, emerges from the purse.

The purse of wonder had struck again! Who knew that Mickey had accompanied us on the walk. It is so hard to keep a straight face in those situations, but it is great to have moments that make me smile, even if I have to keep it on the inside.


Existing Outside of Time

What is life like when you exist outside of time? I wish that there was some way to ask my mother that. But, of course, she doesn’t know that is what is happening right now. Though time is marching forward and her disease is progressing in a linear fashion, there is nothing linear about her reality. It is more like loops – big loops back to her childhood, medium loops back to a few months ago, and mini loops back to a few minutes ago. These loops happen throughout each day and across days and weeks.

She is unsure where she is in time. In the span of a five-minute walk, she can be talking about her childhood and parents as if they are alive, to talking about her husband, wondering if he is alive, to needing to go to the store.

She is back to picking up sticks. She really loves nature. It continues to fascinate her. She is asking for more baskets, again, for her collection. She is back to wanting to live in an apartment. She wants to sell her books, or send them to her mother (which is new). She can’t believe this is her life. Everyone around her has “low mental functioning”. It is deja vu for us, with a little reverting to her childhood thrown in.

Thank goodness she didn’t take this one!

My brain is not use to a non-linear existence. It is not easy trying to keep up with where she is at in time, to know how to respond and where to steer the conversation. I think that it is why I leave from visits exhausted. I wonder if it is exhausting for her to be so many places in time every day.


Alzheimer’s Funnies

Along with the sadness of Alzheimer’s comes a lot of humor.  My mom says and does some funny things, often taking a new look at language.  Many times, she laughs at herself after she says something that she knows doesn’t sound quite right.  She can be very playful herself and knows that she is being silly.  It is great to experience these moments and nice to reflect upon then when the sad times come.

I am going to share a few of the ones that have stuck with me over the past year.  I know that there have been so many more!

A year ago, in May, we were at a hotel for a family function.  The family was all out at the pool behind the hotel.  My mom needed to go to the bathroom.  A cousin walked her inside.  We figured she would walk my mom back out, but suddenly my mom’s head popped through the bushes surrounding the outside gate of the pool.  She was all smiles and was waving at us.  We started laughing at the sight of her popping through the bushes. Then, we were relieved that she made her way, somehow, back to the pool on her own, even if she did go outside the hotel to do so!

One evening, I was sitting with my mom in her room and for some reason she started listing all the people that care about me.  “I care about you, your sister cares about you, your father cares about you, your other father cares about you…”  Wait, what?!

Back when she was collecting sticks and making arrangements using them, she started calling them her grumblings.  She would often talk to her grumblings and then say something like, “If anyone heard me right now, they would think I am crazy!”

A “grumbling”

She is always very effusive when we go to visit her.  She is complimentary of us and always has very nice things to say.  One time she said, “You take good care of me…You show up!” Yes, she has very high standards.

I mentioned this in a previous post, but it was very funny when she was trying to look at her pants and she kept pulling her shirt up higher and higher and she said, “This shirt just goes on forever!”  Yes that was when she was wearing her nightgown.

Clothes shopping with her is always very interesting.  I remember the first time I took her to get some pants.  She was in the dressing room with a few pairs and as she tried them on, I had her hand them to me through the curtain so that she would not get confused.  She tried on a few and they mostly fit.  She then threw open the curtain half-naked and handed me the last pair.  “What about these? I am not sure they fit so well.”  I said, “Mom, those are the pants you wore into the store.  You need to put those back on.”

She was eating a cookie I brought her last week and then she stopped eating it. I asked if she wanted any more of it and she said, “I can’t because my tongue is thirsty.”

Savoring frozen yogurt. We take her for either frozen yogurt or ice cream most weekends.

My sister took her for ice cream this past weekend and she said to her, “Ice cream is like happy hour for my stomach!”  Does it get any better than that!