Like a fish out of waterI still miss her. It’s been over a year since she’s been gone for real and the emotions surrounding the loss have become less intense. Friends told me this would happen; time is the universal healer. Still, I miss her every day.
By: Jill Pertler, Superior Telegram
I still miss her. It’s been over a year since she’s been gone for real and the emotions surrounding the loss have become less intense. Friends told me this would happen; time is the universal healer. Still, I miss her every day.
My mom — she passed away last year, marking the completion of a journey that involved losing her twice. The second loss ended with her death. The first began when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Last week would have been her birthday, so she’s been on my mind more than usual. Little details stir up memories, and I find myself pausing to reflect.
My melancholy is interrupted by a real life and death situation in the dining room, where we keep our pet fish. Two days ago, we awoke to discover our biggest fish flopping helplessly on the wood floor next to his aquarium. No one knows how he got there. He was gasping for breath. My husband picked him up and put him back in the tank and we thought he might recover.
Now it appears the damage he took from the fall and from being out of the water was too much to overcome. He is floating vertically in a half-swim, gasping for breath. I am aware he is dying and there is nothing I can do to help.
Knowing someone with Alzheimer’s is like watching a fish out of water. There is grasping and gasping — for words, for memories, for meaning, for order, for control. I imagine it feels claustrophobic when the world doesn’t make sense — when you want desperately to break free and breathe freely, but there is no escape, no air.
It must be terrifying — to be a fish out of water.
I say I lost my mom twice because it’s what Alzheimer’s does. As it destroys the brain’s ability to function, the disease messes with memory, language, decision-making ability, judgment and personality. Personality. Alzheimer’s steals the very traits that make a person who they are. It’s difficult to imagine anything more cruel.
I witnessed this with my mom. Alzheimer’s took hold of her and consumed whatever it wanted. In its place, a new mom emerged. My Alzheimer’s mom. She was different from the mom who raised me, but not in all bad ways. She wasn’t as quick and clever, but she was quick to laugh. She wasn’t as decisive, but she handed out hugs freely. She couldn’t always find the words to express herself, but “I love you” became a staple in her vocabulary. She didn’t seem as confident, but her fragility made her approachable. Pre- and post-Alzheimer’s she was loving and lovable. Even when she didn’t recognize me, she knew she adored me like only a mother can. I saw it in her eyes when I hugged her, which I did as often as possible.
Like my foundering pet, I watched my mom’s struggle knowing there was nothing I could do to change her situation. She was a fish out of water; the Alzheimer’s made sure of that.
She is free of the disease now. No more struggles. No more gasping and grasping. I am comforted by and thankful for this knowledge.
It’s been more than a year and I miss her still. Of course I do. For as long as I am able, I always will. Happy birthday, Mom.
Jill Pertler, award-winning syndicated columnist and author of “The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication” is collecting fans on Facebook on her Slices of Life page. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit her website at http://marketing-by-design.home.mchsi.com.