During my mom's 10+ year battle with Alzheimer's my family had what I called "defining moments". Those moments that just changed you. I am sure my mom had many of those but she kept them to herself. I imagine the first one was when she first realized something was wrong but chose to keep it to herself and try to hide it. Can you imagine living with that burden every day? Another one was when she began to lose a sense of herself and she wrote "I am Marilyn Hornback" over and over on a piece of paper and stuck it in her desk drawer at work. And yet another moment I imagine is when she looked at her family surrounding her and realized she didn't know who they where and why she was with them.
For me the most profound defining moment was when I went home for a weekend visit. Mom had been struggling and my brother and I took turns going home on the weekend to help out. I pulled in the driveway and my mom came to the door to greet me with a huge smile and great big hug. For just a moment things seemed "normal" and I wanted to stay in that moment forever. But the moment quickly passed and I found myself sitting on the couch talking to my parents about what my kids had been up to and how our lives were going. About 10 minutes into the conversation, my mom looked at me and said, "Oh, you have kids. How many do you have?". That was my defining moment. The moment my heart broke into a million pieces and would never be the same. You see my mom's entire world revolved around kids. She has been a speech pathologist in several school systems and at Murray State where she worked with handicapped children. Later in her career she had been the Director of a Head Start in the Western Ky area. Kids were her life, especially those with disabilities or were disadvantaged. When I had my kids, she and my dad dropped what they were doing and drove the 2 hours to Nashville. They were literally the first people to hold all 3 of my kids after they were born (outside of the docs, my husband and I). She stayed with me after the twins were born and would change and rock one while I fed the other. Her face lit up when all three learned to say "Mimi". All of that was forgotten. She didn't remember any of it. As I processed through that I wondered if she even knew who I was. That was my most heartbreaking and gut wrenching "defining moment".
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