Mom – Free of Her Alzheimer’s Prison

MomMy mother, Betty Louise (Stetson) Torrey, died this week.  I’m sad, mourning our loss, and grieving, of course.

But I also rejoice!  Because more than a decade of Alzheimer’s disease had ravaged her brain, and her body, and she was not Mom for many, too many years.  She is now free of that prison.

I wish you could have known my mother.  Intelligent and funny, caring, talented and clever, she brightened a room when she walked through its door.  She had a beautiful singing voice which graced school auditoriums and church sanctuaries, and a mean golf swing which found its way through more than two dozen countries across the globe, and resulted in three holes-in-one!  She loved the Buffalo Bills, the Buffalo Sabres, and Syracuse University sports.  She was a master calligrapher and could cross-stitch her way to the moon and back.

All that and more.

The “more” came in the form of being a loving and supportive partner to my dad and, from my own perspective, a great mom and grandmother, too.  The life lessons she shared were the basics — cooking, cleaning, etc.  But more than that, my sisters and I learned concepts that have stood the test of time and have made us better people.

So my tribute — this post — will be about sharing two of those life lessons with you, so you can understand better what I mean.

Mom was a fantastic and creative seamstress.  Each Halloween she would put together the most glorious costumes for my sisters and me — and sometimes for herself and Dad, too.  When Mom was pregnant, she made herself a kangaroo costume. In second grade, I was a Christmas tree.  A couple years later, I was the organ grinder and my younger sister, Barb, was the monkey.  Seriously.

Fast forward 25 years, I would do my best to sew fabulous costumes for my daughter, Becca, too, beginning when she was only a year old.  But when Becca was in second grade, all she wanted was a $5 costume from Kmart!  All I could think was, what kind of a lousy mother would just spring the $5 for a cookie cutter costume from Kmart?  It was a conundrum, for sure.

So I shared that conundrum with Mom, in hopes she would understand the dilemma.  But she didn’t understand it at all — because to her way of thinking, the point was to make Becca happy.  And if Becca was happy with a Kmart costume, then so be it.

In other words — the outcome was far more important than the process.  A good lesson.

Many years later, and up until about 2001, Mom and I played golf in the mother-daughter golf tournament each summer. This particular golf tournament was an annual event which was won by the same 2-3 mother daughter pairs each year — because they were all good, competitive golfers.

I’m not that golfer.  I play against my own previous scores, but don’t really care about beating someone else.  I’m more about the fun, the fellowship, and enjoying a beautiful day.

However, undaunted, Mom and I would play our best.  If you won the tournament, there were some very nice prizes to be had.  And, if you won the tournament, you were put in charge of the tournament the following year.

So each year, before we teed off on the first hole, Mom would remind me that our goal was to come in… second.

The lesson?  That sometimes you win bigger by not being first.

It’s not easy losing a parent.  I’ve been learning that for many years through the fog of Alzheimer’s, and I’m learning even more about it now.  We’re fortunate that Dad is still with us – as sharp and vital as ever.

We’re at peace with losing Mom, even through our mourning.  Over time, I’m sure that the sadness and frustrations wreaked by Alzheimer’s will be fully replaced and obscured by the happier memories of her first 75 years.

I hope you and those you love will never have to suffer “the long good-bye” of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Rest in peace Mom.  I will always love you.

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Posted in: Patient Empowerment

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5 Comments

  1. Michael Kirsch, M.D. November 17, 2009

    Wishing you well.

  2. Bethane November 17, 2009

    Thank you for sharing your Mother through your memories. I continue to find support in your words after having lost my Mother to a 23 yr. battle with cancer, followed by my Father to Alzheimer’s. The need to engage caregivers in a conversation for planning and preparation is invaluable advice. I appreciate the knowledge and experience you continue to offer that benefit all.

    Brightest Blessings

  3. Tamara Vick November 19, 2009

    Dear Trisha, what a wonderfull time you all had with your mother!You can keep celebrating the life she lived and share all the wonderfull acts she raised you with!She is an inspiring woman! Allthough you miss her for now, God is still thinking about her and he will take care that we will be reunited, in the place we lived, in due time. And you know why? Because he’s the biljon-triljardair and I know for sure he didn’t make us for such a short time, 20, 40, 60 something years, to throw away such a wonderfull person! The wooden coat is not our life-goal! For several years I keep my mother (84)alive with natural turbo-food and this moment I try to wake her up from her scleroses. Though the docters,so called ‘specialists’say its impossible, its possible al the same! The other day she glanced at me! I just cured my father(88) in 2 weeks time, he starts to rerember again, his arthritis(burning feet) is disappearing now and even his hearing got better!! He can throw away his hearing- aid today or tomorrow! Though I didn’t see him for a long time, due to religious circumstances. Due to the same reason I couldn’t built a fine relationship with my mother ánd father! But I can see higher, wider and deeper than that! I have a very simple turbo-cure for, about what I think, almost any disease. The only thing I can’t do, is to grow limps, but that’s obvious. When there’s too much knowledge, simplicity can get lost. It’s just the simple things we need to make us healthy ánd happy! The future is there to live for, till all time is finished, which will never happen! Live your life with gratefulness for God and your parents! Tamara Vick

  4. Mica November 19, 2009

    I’m sorry to hear of your loss. It was a long battle and she is in a happy place now. Free from all the pain and suffering. I found you website today because my mother has had Alzheimers for 9 years. She is now at the end of her life. Has been in a coma state for ~6months. All of a sudden yesteday she “awoke” for a little bit. It was such a blessing to me to be able to “see” my mom again. Even if it was for such a short period. Take care of yourself, and know you did everything you could.

  5. Ellen Page March 23, 2010

    My sincere condolences. I lost my Grandfather, who I loved dearly. In the last years he too was affected by Alzheimer’s. He had a urinary catheter, the apogee intermittent catheter type that he would dislodge continuously until it damaged him severely. So much pain; so much suffering. I guess it’s true, now he’s in a better place. – Ellen Page, Graham, Washington