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When My Mom Was Diagnosed With Alzheimer's, I Felt So Alone

When you think about introducing a boyfriend to your mother for the first time, you usually wonder if he's going to screw it up. Will he be wearing the wrong shirt? Interrupt your parents halfway through a story? Reveal some detail of a date that is best left unsaid? For me, introducing my sweet new boyfriend, Seth, to my parents three months after we started dating went perfectly. It was a year and a half after my college graduation, and I had been working in Los Angeles as an actress. My parent's visit was exciting, a chance for them to see how things had progressed for me since I'd arrived.

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The highlight was seeing the Tchaikovsky fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl. My mother's bright eyes lit up watching the sky flash above her. We stood together linking arms, and I was so happy. I'd met a man I already knew I would be with for the long haul, and he got along well with my family! This was before both of our careers had taken off. Seth was just a sweet, funny actor I had met on a double date a few months earlier. It's one of my favorite memories. The evening was magical, but when it was time for my parents to fly back to their home in Florida, I dropped them off at the airport and went to Seth's house and cried. 

"After I dropped off my parents at the airport, I went to Seth's house and cried."

I hadn't told anybody, but I was really worried about my mom and how confused she seemed. She was repeating herself, and that's not who she was. 

Seth said, "What do you mean? She seems totally great." But I knew she wasn't okay. She wasn't acting like her usual incredibly smart, witty self. I always looked up to my mom growing up. She was kind, funny, and busy managing many friendships and mentoring her students. As a first-grade teacher for special needs kids for over 35 years, she was close to her students, there for her family, and always quick with a joke or flash of wisdom. I got my entire value system from her. 

A few years ago my brother uncovered a video from my high school years of my mom and me arguing about my getting a job. I whined about how I didn't have time to work— even though I clearly did. On the video, you can see her asking me if I was scared. I said yes. Her voice was soft as she said, "Think of how good you'll feel when you know you made your own money." That's what she instilled in me. 

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I ended up working at The Gap, where I blew my entire paycheck on clothes, of course, but my mother never complained about shopping—it was my favorite activity that we would do together.   Sometimes we would talk about what my wedding day would be like—like every little girl I twirled in dresses and pictured my gown. In those days of going to the stores together, there was no question that she would be there for my wedding—helping me pick out my dress and making sure everything was perfect behind the scenes.

My mother always used to say that Alzheimer's was a part of her life and would be a part of her daughter's life—her own mother died from it when I was 18. She used to tell me it would happen to her, too. When you hear something like that, you allow yourself to feel sadness. But there's no room for acceptance. There was no way I could comprehend that it would also happen to her. 

"She used to tell me it would happen to her. But there was no way I could comprehend that."

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I didn't want to see it, but I did. At my college graduation, she told a long, complicated story. And then she told it again. And again. It wasn't like her. A dread, like a dull weight, started to grow in my heart. Just after I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my career as an actress, she came out to visit me for a special trip. My parents are usually together, so it was rare to have alone time with her. It's an amazing memory for me—the first real moment where I was an adult with her. It was also the last time I would see her fully lucid and in control.

Every time I would go visit after that, she would seem more confused, and afraid. About a month after she met Seth, she was formally diagnosed with Alzheimer's. 

About six years later, Seth proposed and I started planning my wedding. I had always pictured her behind the scenes with me every step of the way, but she slipped away more and more gradually while we were planning things. On the actual day, she was physically present, which I'm grateful for, but she wasn't fully herself. I thought she would teach me how to be a mom, to be a wife, but that's not going to happen.

I thought she would teach me how to be a mom, to be a wife, but that's not going to happen.

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Alzhiemer's is cruel in the slow way it takes people away from you.There isn't a big dramatic moment when things are over or clearly defined, and there never is another side to it. The grieving just goes on, even if the person is still sitting there right in front of you. That's how it was with my mom. Every time I would see her, another piece was missing. When I visited her, I went from calling her Mom to Adele. Otherwise, she wouldn't answer. It made me wonder if she had forgotten she was a mom.

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I felt very alone when my mother was diagnosed. I didn't think I would start losing my mom to Alzheimer's when I was 25, and she was 55. My husband always says that doing charity should be what you as an individual can do. Maybe you'll raise money that will give a hard-working brother, husband, or other family member the help they need. We founded Hilarity For Charity so that people wouldn't feel as alone.

Promoting our first event in October of 2014, it felt pretty amazing to connect with others and to show people in a very dark place that someone else is out there. I want to be able to help connect and make people feel like they have a voice in something. It's a tribute to my mother, who always found the humor in everything, who always found the good.






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Date: 10.12.2018, 13:06 / Views: 73475