October 19th had the kind of ominous winter sky you'd expect to see on the eastern seaboard at this time of year, but it didn't seem like the kind of day that should have changed everything. The sun sparkled through the bare trees, bringing with it a brief respite to the icy chill of winter. This warmed my heart for a moment, but the afternoon was progressing with an inordinate ill will of its own. Have you noticed how good things can take years or even decades to happen, while bad things seem to sucker punch you at a moment's notice? It was that kind of day.
I was scared and desperately seeking a person who had the power to alter a life of extreme confusion. That could be what blindsided me. When you need something so badly, you hope with every fiber of your being that there is someone who holds the key to end your suffering.
My dear Mother, at ninety one years old was by my side and walked close to me as we entered the Doctor's office. I was taking care of her. Struck with Alzheimer's and delicate as a flower, she also came to that office with a sense of trust and hope that she would be helped. I was bringing her to a Doctor who seemed to be a perfect fit. Someone who was educated at the finest Universities; trained in both medicine and psychology. Our new physician was well recognized in her field and came highly recommended. This was someone who could be trusted to understand the fragile perceptual balance an Alzheimer's patient must maintain in order to navigate through each day.
Modern medicine has developed a set of standards to use when testing for Alzheimer's. In part, this protects physicians when they are dealing with people who are seeking a legally binding appraisal of cognitive ability. I only wanted a medication that would lessen the effects of this merciless disease, but making the proper diagnosis requires physicians to administer a test in which patients are asked a series of simple questions. This seemed to be a reasonable way to complete an assessment.
The interrogation started with some easy questions. They were no problem for my Mother, but as the test progressed, she began to show signs of subtle distress. I felt her struggle as the questions became increasingly difficult. She no longer seemed able to answer. All mental processes began to shut down. "What street do you live on?" At this point, my thoughts screamed in my head, " Please Mom, you know this one - Please...Plea...". The silence shot back with a resounding "NO". In her reality, she did not know the answer to this one or the next or any that followed. My heart dropped with each negative response.
By the end of the test, my Mother was broken. Although she sat in complete silence, her pain was palpable. The humiliation and sudden realization of the extent of her loss were too much to handle. As her caregiver, one of my primary goals was to keep my Mother feeling safe, secure, and out of harm's way. On this day, I failed. I failed miserably.
As you can imagine, the drive home was filled with nothing but an incredibly tense silence.
I could not do anything to take back the events of the day, but my love for her was too great to allow this test to diminish either our relationship, or her life. Later that afternoon, I prepared some of her favorite tea. We sat together at the kitchen table and talked away some of the fear and anguish she felt earlier.
If my Mother were alive today, I'm sure she'd forgive me for taking her there. Hopefully, someday, I'll be able to forgive myself.