I’m reading a book about a girl who is trying to hide the fact that her aunt is senile from her parents, for fear that they will resign the aunt to an institution. It hits a little too close to home.

My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The diagnosis wasn’t that long ago,  yet her symptoms had been troublesome for a while. In fact, it’s kind of strange to look back now at some things that seemed odd and realize it was an early indication of trouble. Our kitchen table is a an ever-present reminder.

Mom refinished the oak table. She’d done it before, but this time she insisted that she didn’t need to remove the old finish before applying the new. As she worked, I questioned this, but she was adamant that she knew what she was doing. I could tell by looking that it wasn’t working, but I relied on her experience. Maybe I was wrong. The new finish never adhered properly. To this day, if you set something hot down on the surface, a bowl of chili, a reheated plate of leftovers, the finish will bubble.

Watching her decline is difficult. She was an intelligent, tough, funny woman. She still is, but she’s fading. She taught English. She can barely communicate now. She can speak, but her sentences often don’t make sense. I wasn’t sure if she could still read, but she read a sign the other day. She doesn’t always know who I am, confusing me with my aunt.

People ask how she’s doing and I have no idea how to respond. I told my brother, “Eh,” and he wanted to know what that meant. Not great. But nothing critical. It’s a long, slow slope.

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