- by Kevin Alldredge
I arrived in Knoxville early afternoon on Wednesday to spend some time with my mother before the Rock Creek Stump Jump 50K in Chattanooga on Saturday (Oct. 1st). I picked up the rental car and drove to Manorhouse, her assisted living home. Mom has severe dementia and is physically frail, no longer capable of performing even the most basic tasks necessary to sustain herself. She smiled when she saw me.
Nice…she still recognizes me. No doubt my brother Greg had reminded her several times that I would be here today. But for Mom to process and store that information for recall later might be, I fear, like explaining the Three Laws of Thermodynamics to Muriel, my five-year-old, and then expecting her to write an analysis of my lecture.
I pushed Mom in her wheelchair around the building and grounds, and then fed her dinner. It had been a good afternoon and evening; Mom was smiling and seemed content. Her verbal skills these days consist mainly of a cascade of sounds, with an occasional string of two or three identifiable words, almost expressing a half thought. Not too long ago, these sounds had been intelligible speech. Now, though, only her tone and facial expression suggest contentment, frustration or anger, statement or question. I always answer Mom with a smile and some response that most likely bears no relationship to what she attempted to say or ask. Nonetheless, she usually seems satisfied with my “Oh yes, I think so, Mom”, or “No, no, we’d better not do that, Mom.” Greg, who lives nearby, and sees her daily is Mom’s primary family link and caregiver. (He is scheduled for knee surgery this afternoon, thus probably putting all of his running days in his rearview mirror. So sorry, dude.) He always helps coach and prepare me on what to expect for my upcoming visits with Mom.
[The author's mother in 2006, with her grandchildren, Muriel and Ansel. Photo: Kevin Alldredge.]