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My Mother's Alzheimer's: A Poem

Mom with my granddaughter. Photo by Holle Abee.

Mom with my granddaughter. Photo by Holle Abee.

Mom's last Thanksgiving. Photo by Holle Abee.

Mom's last Thanksgiving. Photo by Holle Abee.

Why am I here, and what did I do

To deserve this wretched end?

I’m surrounded by many strangers.

(Or maybe they’re my friends?)

My room is cozy and comfortable –

I must admit it’s nice.

(But someone’s stealing my underwear.

Really! It’s happened twice!)

How silly. Who would want an old woman’s panties?

Why would I have thought that?

Oh, I must be losing my mind.

I’m as crazy as a bat.

Did I tell you about my new job?

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(Sometimes now I curse.)

Yes, I'm driving a bus now.

Wasn’t I once a nurse?

You come to see me every day

(Why am I in this place?)

I sometimes can’t recall your name

But I do recall the face.

I know you’re someone whom I love –

My daughter, or maybe my mother.

And that man with you –

Is that your husband or your brother?

Your husband? Are you old enough?

He seems to be very nice.

(Help me to remember –

Wasn’t I married twice?)

Oh, Holle, you’re such a good daughter.

Can you stay and eat?

Go tell the director

We’ll need an extra seat.

Did I ever have a husband?

Did I ever have a home?

And did I have a family,

Or did I live alone?

Oh, I remember my husband now,

But I can’t recall his face.

Where is he? Does he come to visit?

Did he put me in this place?

You say he’s passed away?

Tell me, how did he die?

Of old age – really?

Was he older than I?

How old am I, anyway?

I really can’t remember.

And what day and month is this –

Is it November or December?

Did we have Christmas yet?

(Someone stole my tree!)

The lobby decorations are lovely.

Would you like to come and see?

Have we eaten lunch yet? I’m hungry.

(But I don’t care for their food.

And several of the dining staff

Are sometimes very rude.)

The food they serve? It’s fine.

On Fridays we have fish.

They know that’s not my favorite,

So they make me another dish.

They really treat me well here,

I’m as happy as can be.

(See that man in the red sweater?

He wants to marry me.)

You need to tell the attendant

This door is always locked.

I can’t go out when I want to.

I've knocked and knocked and knocked.

I’d like to go out shopping;

(Can I still drive a car?)

I think there’s a mall right down the street.

It isn’t very far.

I wonder if there’s a jeweler.

I need a diamond ring.

(I had a very pretty one,

But the aides steal everything.)

Am I in jail? Have I done something wrong?

(Did I tell you I was in the Army and used to fly a plane?)

Why did I make up such a lie?

What’s happened to my brain?

What time are we leaving –

Or did you ever say?

(My memories have all been stolen,

My whole life taken away.)

A tortured existence -

The sound of death and the smell of screams.

And did I only imagine a life

Beyond these splintered dreams?

The speaker of this poem is my mother – after she was suffering from Alzheimer’s. And yes, she actually said all these things that I’ve related in poetry form. Sometimes she’d be perfectly lucid, and then in an instant, she might be cursing, which she’d never done before her affliction, or babbling nonsense about imagined jobs and the nursing staff’s stealing her belongings. That’s why the poem is disjointed – I was trying to capture her tortured thought process.

My husband and I lived with mother for several years after my father’s death so that Mom could stay in her home. After she started setting fires and wandering off, however, we had to move her into an assisted living facility. After two years, she had to be moved to an Alzheimer's unit.

My mother was a public health nurse, an R.N., for more than three decades. She was the kindest, most altruistic person I have ever known. She and my father were married for sixty years, until his death in 2001. She died in 2008, at the age of eighty-eight, and I still miss her terribly. I fully believe that Alzheimer’s is the most devastating disease there is. It’s just like my mom would say in her lucid moments, “It’s as if someone stole my memories – as if I never even lived at all."


Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on July 20, 2019:

Thank you, Brenda. It's a terrible fate that no one deserves.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on July 19, 2019:

Such a truly amazing view of what she is really thinking.

I am certain it was a tough decision to put her in a home.

I am watching this now with my mother's husband and a few others.

It is heartbreaking when they no longer know your name. It is so sad and difficult to see someone you love and care about go down this road.

Great read.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on May 12, 2013:

Debby, I'm so sorry that I'm just now seeing your comment. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

Debby Bruck on December 16, 2011:

Dear Habee ~ Everyone has praised your poem for good reason, it expresses exactly what goes through the mind of the Alzheimer's patient. I'm watching this progression now and understand the feelings of loss, frustration, feeling robbed, trapped, and unable to connect the brain synapses that we as younger people may take for granted. They feel 'disconnected' and go deeper into their own lonely world. If permitted, I will send to friends and family. I'm sorry for your loss. May this be a better year ahead. Blessings, Debby

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 26, 2011:

Mary, I have the same fear. My mom and grandmother both had Alzheimer's, but no one on my father's side did.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on November 26, 2011:

habee, this was so sweet and sad. One of my greatest fears in life is that I will get this horrible disease. I've lost members of my family too, to this. Voted it UP, etc.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 20, 2011:

rebekah, thank you for your kind words. It was an awful time for everyone involved. When Mom realized what was happening to her, she begged me to kill her. It was a nightmare.

rebekahELLE from Tampa Bay on November 20, 2011:

Oh Holle, how terribly devastating to have had to watch your mother endure such a horrible condition. I think it has to have a profound effect on the loved ones, and it's so sad that someones last years are lived in this desperate prison.

How beautiful of you to give her your poetic voice. The last line of your hub is painfully heartbreaking. May we find a cure for this horrible disease. Well done, my dear.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 20, 2011:

HH, the worst part was when she was still lucid enough to know what was happening. She was terrified, and that was painful to watch.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 20, 2011:

Story, it was a tough time. Keep in touch with your mom to reinforce her memories of you.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on November 19, 2011:

Holle, you done a superb job here showing how they feel and think and jumb from one thing to another. It is a very cruel, devastating decease for them as well as their family. It must have hurt you terribly.

Barbara from Stepping past clutter on November 18, 2011:

My mother doesn't have Alzheimers but she has dementia, which is progressing in similar fashion. Tough times, eh? I keep thinking I must call her today, I must send her letters each week, I must make certain we connect because I don't know when she will begin to not remember who I am. I know it is coming and I dred it so much. Hang in there, habee.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 17, 2011:

Sorry about your dad, Oceans. 67 is too young for Alzheimer's, although it's devastating at any age.

Paula from The Midwest, USA on November 17, 2011:

Habee, your poem struck a chord with me. I just lost my father, only 67, this year to alzheimers. I recalled very similar instances that you shared. Thanks for sharing your poem and story with us.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 16, 2011:

Queen, you are exactly right in your description of Alzheimer's - it's a thief. Thanks!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 16, 2011:

jenu, I'm sorry your family had to go through this. Thanks for stopping by!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 16, 2011:

drbj, I so hope they find a cure for Alzheimer's soon. Thanks for reading and for voting up!

ExoticHippieQueen on November 16, 2011:

Alzheimer's is such a cruel disease, taking our very core away from us and leaving us with fear and .....basically not much else. You did a beautiful job. Voted up and awesome.

jenubouka on November 16, 2011:

Such creative words that directly speak of someones battle with this, as my grandmother had this as well. I felt that this was what she thought too. Awesome.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on November 16, 2011:

Holle - you have a written a tender, touching account of your mom's affliction as well as how she, at times, recognized what was happening to her. With all our great scientific minds and resources, it's hard to understand why Alzheimer's still exists. Here's hoping it's conquered very, very soon. Your poetry is perfect. Voted up.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 15, 2011:

Kulsum, thank you for your kind words. I also appreciate the vote!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 15, 2011:

TKS, what a sweet comment! It actually brought tears to my eyes. Yes, I totally believe that Mom, Dad, and my aunts and uncles are having a blast now!

Dr Kulsum Mehmood from Nagpur, India on November 15, 2011:

Habee, a very beautifully phrased and rhymed poem. I enjoyed reading it and felt compassion for your mom. So easily you have put down your mom's thoughts. It is amazing. VOTED UP.

TKs view from The Middle Path on November 15, 2011:

habee, I had to come back and read this again. Throughout my day, one stanza kept coming to mind.

"You need to tell the attendant

This door is always locked.

I can't go out when I want to

I've knocked and knocked and knocked".

This is so vivid.

I wanted so much to reach out and open the door for her.

I believe, in her passing, someone finally did.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 15, 2011:

Melissa, sorry about your grandmother. My grandmother had Alzheimer's, also. I'm hoping I take after my dad in that respect. Thanks for reading!

Melissa McClain from Atlanta, GA on November 15, 2011:

This is a very lovely poem Habee. My grandmother died of Alzheimer's a couple of years ago so I know exactly what you're trying to convey with your poem. Thanks for writing this.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 15, 2011:

Anglnwu, thank you. I appreciate the feedback for my poetry.

anglnwu on November 15, 2011:

habee, you've illustrated the effects of Alzheimer's so well. The images are poignant and sad but true. Very nicely done and rated up.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 15, 2011:

Saddlerider, it's so nice to see you here. I do believe that Mom and Dad have been reunited, and that someday we'll all be together again. Thanks for the support!

saddlerider1 on November 15, 2011:

habee thank you for sharing this very sad story/poem. It afflicts many of the elderly. I am getting in to my senior year now and I don't look forward to losing my memories. I am saddened to read of your mom, to be robbed of her past, present and future is so unfair.

Yet maybe it's a way of seeing through the curtain and listening and hearing of what awaits for us and leaving us oblivious to everything else going on around us in our present world.

It almost seems like a world in itself, dementia. Peace and blessings to you and thank you for your compassion, kind, caring loving heart and soul. Any may your dear mom and dad be RIP or better still kicking up their heels on the other side together.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 15, 2011:

Thank you for that, De Greek. It's always good to hear from you!

De Greek from UK on November 15, 2011:

My poor, dear, sweet friend, I feel everyting you want to say here and all I can say in return is :May she rest in peace".

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 15, 2011:

I agree, Buckie. It's as if they suffer two deaths with Alzheimer's: the death of the mind and personality, along with the death of the body.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 15, 2011:

FF, great to see you! And thanks for your feedback.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 15, 2011:

Perspy, the worst part of Mom's Alzheimer's was when she still had moments when she understood all too well what was happening to her.

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on November 15, 2011:

Great insight into what goes on in the head of someone with Alzheimer's. I have a very dear friend who is 71 who is experiencing this at the present time. Definitely makes you cry at remembering who they were and who they are now. Wonderfully done, Holle~

Alfreta Sailor from Southern California on November 15, 2011:

Habee, this was so touching, poignant, heartfelft, warm, compelling, all of that and more. You made it so vivid, that I could actually see her saying all of these things. This was so great I had to read it twice, and I will bookmark it so I can read it again. Voted up, awesome, beautiful.

Demas W Jasper from Today's America and The World Beyond on November 14, 2011:

Two things to ponder: my cousin's wife had Alzheimers and he commented that taking her to Disneyland was always a treat because for her it was brand new each time; and, their son died as a successful, just-retired adult, from rapid melanoma. She was unaware and therefor protected from dealing with that loss which on the other hand was so devastating to their son's father. Perhaps both of those aspects were part of "the plan." Keeping familiar surroundings "in play" as long as possible, and simplifying those surroundings can be helpful in the earlier stages.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 14, 2011:

Beth, I've been trying and trying to call you!

We're lucky to have had such a wonderful childhood, and I thank our parents for that.

Beth Godwin on November 14, 2011:

I miss your mother so much. I remember her as she was when we were growing up. Great poem. Made me cry!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 14, 2011:

Vanne, I was so hoping you'd see this! You know how your "other mother" felt about you. So glad you got to see her before she left us. Love you!

Vanne Way on November 14, 2011:

I read this thru tears and remembered some of the people I have known that were taken away by this. This is without a doubt one of the best poems I have ever read!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 14, 2011:

Royce! What a pleasant surprise to see you here! It's great to hear from you. Do you ever go to the lodge? We drop in once in a while. How have you been?

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 14, 2011:

Sandi, my mom loved you!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 14, 2011:

Shampa - an amazing similarity! My parents were one month away from their 60 years, too. Thanks for the comment!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 14, 2011:

TKs, you are too kind. PLEASE enter your poems!!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 14, 2011:

Lucky, your kind words really mean a lot to me!

Royce Bishop on November 14, 2011:

Hollie, I am so glad my Dad passed on before he got to this stage. This is the worst kind of suffering that a person and family could go through, never knowing from one minute to the next what you are, where,or who you are. I am so scared this will happen to me. You have to live for every minute because of the fear and when you are alone it makes it worse. Tell Johnny hello miss seeing you both.

Sandi on November 14, 2011:

the poem was great and so was your mom

Shampa Sadhya from NEW DELHI, INDIA on November 14, 2011:

An extraordinary work. It touched my heart not just because of the patient's sufferings but mainly because of being such a daughter who witnessed the same kind of suffering my mother went through due to this disease.

I connected myself with your poem very much. Your description at the end of the poem has a similarity with my experience too. In March 2000 my father passed away when they were just a month away from completing their sixty years of marriage. She suffered this dreaded disease for almost six years and passed away in 2010. It was really a painful experience.

Voted up and awesome.

TKs view from The Middle Path on November 14, 2011:

I agree 100% with Lucky. This is a magnificent piece of work. you captured her tortured thought process in perfection. As best as I can tell, having only seen into that world from a safe distance.

I have two other poems I was planning on entering, but me thinks you have just raised the bar a wee bit high.

Kathy from Independence, Kansas on November 14, 2011:

Oh...i think there is a big big chance because you've not only described, perfectly, the condition and it's effects on everyone've done it in a very creative and beautiful way...and the description at the end is so honorable towards your mother...all the ingredients are there. GOOD LUCK!!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 14, 2011:

Lucky, I'm bowled over by your praise! I did enter it in the contest, but I don't hold any hope of its placing.

Kathy from Independence, Kansas on November 14, 2011:

Dear habee...this is so touching, so compelling and so real. You have done an absolutely beautiful work of art describing the devastation and "long goodbye"of Alzheimer's. I am so very sorry that you experienced all the pain and mental suffering that everyone around and those who have the disease go through. Your poetry is amazing; and the truth of it is astounding. My father also suffered from this debilitating condition. He thought we were married. He believed we'd met on a train in Europe during WWII. He'd wake in the middle of the night and wonder where he many occasions when he was totally lost. sometimes, I'd wake in the middle of the night hearing him crying. And he'd apologize profusely for imagined and real deeds for which he was very sorry. It was so heart breaking; to see him that way.

You should have held this poem to be entered into the poetry/prose'd sure to be highly recognized for this sensitive, respectful and bittersweet poem. Much sympathy and understanding to you, habee. UP Beautiful Awesome and there should be a Compelling.

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