I'm thinking about my mother, Martha, who passed away June 18, 2001, after a 13-year battle with Alzheimer's disease. She was only 62 when she started showing symptoms, and within five years was in a nursing home.
Mom didn't have an easy life. Her own mother committed suicide when Mom was 4, and shortly thereafter my grandfather placed her and her 3 siblings in an orphanage, because he was too distraught to care for them. Mom always said she loved it at "The Home," but I know she missed out on having her mother around as she grew up. She married young--18 or 19, I think, to a local boy during WWII. My sister was born in 1947, and things went bad in the marriage after that. She was abused by her husband, fled to Miami with my sister, and divorced. After returning to upstate New York, she met my father and they were married in 1951. Several years ealier she had had surgery for ovarian cancer, and was told she would not be able to have more children. Surprise--my older brother was born in 1953, followed by three more over the next 13 years.
We had a pretty decent childhood, though we were very "working class" and had little money. My father was a meatcutter in a supermarket and Mom had to work in a tape and sandpaper factory. Right after my next youngest brother was born in 1960, a 100 pound weight fell on my mother's right arm at work and crushed it. Many operations and much therapy later, she regained use of the arm, but was in constant pain from the accident, both in her bad arm and her leg, where a nerve was removed to graft into the damaged arm. She seldom complained, but went back to work in the office of the factory, quitting when my youngest brother was born in 1966. A few months after he was born Mom discovered she was pregnant yet again. But this time she miscarried, lost a tremendous amount of blood and almost died. She also had a massive allergic reaction to some of the medication she was given, and had to be on medication for that the rest of her life.
I think I was closest to Mom of all my brothers and in some ways my sister. Mom was very intelligent--she had won a scholarship in high school to Cornell, but gave it up to get married to husband #1 during the war. She was the only one I could talk to in my family that halfway understood me. Up until the time she started to be affected by the Alzheimer's, we talked at least once a week and often more frequently. As I lived nearby, I visited very often, too--always on Mother's Day, usually with flowers in tow.
Mom loved flowers. One of her greatest pleasures, in spite of her physical pain from her injury and her intense arthritis (which I've inherited, alas), was working in her vegetable and flower gardens. Whenever I would visit during the summer, she would immediately bring me out to see the flower garden. Her simple joy in helping plants grow was so touching.
Every time I see the flowers in my yard blooming, I think of my mother. I feel her presence sometimes very strongly, but I still miss her. I wish she was still here, and I could bring her flowers again.
I love you, Mom.