I've been spending time at my mother's house lately. This is the home she shared with my father for the past 30 years. I'm surprised to find it full of old memories of the past for me, like when she and my father put up my husband and I, along with our new born son, Macklin, for an unspecified period of time. Allan was just starting work as a chef, we were new to Florida, and they opened their arms to us - and a garage full of furniture and boxes as well. They didn't know how long we'd be staying or when we'd be leaving and they didn't care. I'm not sure if I would be as generous with such an open-ended plan presented by my grown children...
I can remember so many different events that took place over the years in this house. It's not all just Alzheimer's disease. It's the good times, the bad times, the real times, that form this kind of protective barrier around me. This is where the heart of our family can be found - in the simplest things. There are gestures of kindness from my mother, the photo of my father with the first airplane he flew, pictures of my brothers and sisters all over the place. They call my mother on a daily basis, if it's not Rick one day, it's Barbara, or Chris, or Peter, or Mike. Jackie, my sister, comes flying through either on skates or her bike or her own two feet. A constant river of all that makes this family what it is - vibrant, connected, alive - swirling around my mother, the center of gravity for us all.
I write a lot about the horror of my father's Alzheimer's disease, and would like to take a deep breath and tell you that there is life after it passes. It's really hard to make it through, together, without pulling apart. I often lost sight of the fact that one day, it would all be part of the past. It would be over. Alzheimer's would be gone.
Another deep breath, love remains. The wreckage is swept up, carted away, by the daily tasks of living life, but it's love that restores our faith, allows us to let go, to release the pain of the past, taking away it's power to hurt us in the present. Orbits are put back in place, our planets resume their rotations, and gravity, created by the heart of my mother, pulls us together.