Photos As A Memory Lifeline

My mother and father bringing me home from the hospital.

Not long ago my father found a stash of family photos that my mom had hidden away in a safe place and forgotten. The photos, mostly small black-and-white snapshots, were mostly of my sister and I. In many of the the photos, I was an infant being brought home from the hospital and then later a young teenager, about 14-years-old.

It did not surprise me that about 18 months after my mom’s death that these photos bubbled to the surface. My mom had Alzheimers and like many people with this terrible disease would hide common things in odd places. It’s a habit that confounds the families of Alzheimer’s victims, finding television remotes in the refrigerator and the car keys in a kitchen junk drawer.

After my father had a stroke a few years ago, my sister was desperately trying to find his┬áhospital records for a follow-up doctor’s appointment. She shifted her search strategy to look in places “where no one would ever look,” and fairly quickly found the medical files in my mother’s underwear drawer. Later, my mother said she put them there because they would be safe.

Safe from who or what she could not explain. But recalling this episode gave me some insight into my mother’s motivations in stashing away her prized family photos.

You have to understand that nothing was more important to my mom than her children. For us, she would make any sacrifice. And I can still remember feeling so loved when she comforted me from a hard fall on the playground, after being bullied at school or before a anxiety provoking exam at school.

In the fog of her disease, I am certain my mom was attempting to preserve her memories and recognition of her children. She still remembered the day her own mother, who also suffered from dementia, could not recognize her own daughter. She was not going to allow the thief afoot called Alzheimers to steal her children.

Our family was deeply saddened and shocked when my mother died unexpectedly of a massive stroke. But we also were grateful that she would not have to suffer through the worst of what Alzheimers would have brought in the end.

Instead, my mother died with her children at her side and held her memories of being a mom until the very end. And now, my sister, father and I have those photos as bright memories of her love for all our remaining days.

With my mom and our german shepherd who I a told guarded me with unwavering devotion.

A little older and spending time with my mother and father.

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