Stacie and I talked about it on Wednesday night, and we decided that it was best for me to have breakfast with my mom, alone, on Thursday for her birthday. Given that she's starting to loose her memory, she may be more candid if it were just she and I, as opposed to feeling the need to be guarded if Stace was with us.
So, I picked my mom up at my parent's home about 9:30 on her 67th birthday and took her, in that awesome convertible camaro, to breakfast. It was a gorgeous spring day and we drove with the top down.
The restaurant she picked was closed, and wouldn't open until 11 am, so I took out my phone, opened Yelp, and did a search for breakfast. The first restaurant that popped up was The Good Egg, and it was about two miles away from where we were. We hopped back into the camaro, and I asked Siri how to get there. And Siri started talking, like she does, and I thought my mom's head was gonna explode, because she is simply not tech savvy (bless her heart). For her, emailing is a stretch; FaceTiming is outta the question (partly because of the tech challenges; partly because she doesn't like the way she looks on the camera. And, no, I'm not kidding).
We had a pleasant conversation over breakfast, I filled her in on what the boys are up to, Nathan's health stuff, how Randy's voice is doing, and a little about what it was like to go through chemo. I censored the nitty gritty of it because I know she's the type to bury her head in the sand and doesn't want to hear about the nastiness of chemo. Not that anyone really does...but you'd think your own mother would want to know what you went through.......
I turned the conversation to her and asked her how she's enjoying her retirement. At some point in the conversation, she used a phrase like, "I don't remember" and I jumped on it, knowing this was my chance, and it would likely not come again.
"Does that happen a lot, Mom?"
She looked at me, surprised, and asked, "What? Does what happen a lot?"
"You not remembering?"
"Well, I don't really know. Haha. I guess. I'm not really sure."
I looked at her, and said, "Well I am concerned that it does. I am worried about you."
"It's nice that you're worried, but you have a lot on your plate with the boys and with Randy and your teaching. You don't need to worry about me."
"Mom, part of the reason I'm here is to take a break from my life and the hell I personally went through with cancer...and part of the reason I'm hear is because over the past 7 or 8 years, I've noticed that your memory is slipping."
She looked at me in the way she has my entire life, clearly uncomfortable with where I was going, and unsure of what I'd say next. And because I'm me, I get a little bit of a charge of taking people out of their comfort zone, and my mother is no exception.
"I know because of the phone conversations. I know because I can feel it. I can feel your memory slipping the same way I can feel it when Nathan's seizes. I know your brain is changing because I live with someone who has a few brain disorders, and while what Nathan deals with is different than what you deal with, it's still a brain disorder. And, we have a family history of Alzheimer's disease. Your father didn't know who his wife of nearly 50 years was when he died."
She swallowed a few gulps of water, cleared her throat and looked at me, expecting more.
I spoke slowly, so that she had time to absorb what I was saying.
"I know you don't want to deal with the idea of loosing your memory. Believe me when I tell you I certainly didn't want to deal with the lump I found in my breast. But the fact is, if I didn't, I'd be dead. I know confronting a health issue is scary, and I can help you. I can help you navigate the health care system, I have a lot of experience, both professionally as a Health Educator for nearly 20 years, as well as a patient and as a care giver. I've already looked into it, and the U of A has a facility called the Arizona Center on Aging. They have neurologists who specialize in memory issues and can help you. Are you taking any medications?"
"No. I don't take anything," she said.
"That's great! And that's pretty amazing that you're 67 years old and you're not on any medications! Good for you, Mom!"
She smiled and took pride in my compliment. Then, just as quickly, her smile disappeared. She cleared her throat.
"Dad and I have talked a little bit about my memory issues, and I suppose I should get to the...where would I go first?" she said.
"I'd start with your primary care doctor. It's important that he or she have a set of eyes on you."
"Did you see your primary care doc when you were going through chemo?"
"Yes, I saw him a couple of times. And I think it's important that when a person is dealing with a major health issue, that they have several different care providers. Each physician is going to have a different perspective, and each of those perspectives are going to be valuable in their own way."
I was getting excited. She was opening up. I could sense her willingness to get help. This was going much better than I had anticipated.
"I think you start with your primary physician, and ask for a referral to the University's Center for Aging. Depending on your insurance, you may be able to self refer and go straight to the U of A."
"Our insurance allows us to self-refer. I can do that," she said.
"Mom that's great! I'm really proud of you for being willing to pursue this. So, what I can do to help you is look some stuff up on the web about the services the University offers, print some information off for you, and mail it to you."
"That would be helpful. Getting on the computer is pretty overwhelming for me."
"I understand. So, I'll get it in the mail as quickly as I can once I get home."
"Did you talk to Dad about this? Does Sam know that you're talking to me, too?"
"Yes, Mom. We are all worried about you and the memory loss we are witnessing. It is important to all of us that you get the help you need and deserve."
"What about Dad?"
"Dad is acutely aware of your fading memory. He's really very worried. He's told me that he makes accommodations for you by leaving you notes. He said that you call him every morning at work about 8 am so that he knows you're ok. He loves you very much, and he wants what's best for you."
By this point, we'd finished eating. I was thankful that she was as open as she was to getting the help she needed. I paid the bill and we left the restaurant.
My spirits were lifted by the ease and gracefulness of the conversation. I was pleasantly surprised.
The sun was out, the sky was blue, the top was down, and we headed towards the resort to connect with Stacie. It was a beautiful day.