Today is the day that I begin sharing stories and memoirs about my mom, written from other people besides myself. I want my mom to be remembered for the beautiful person she was before the dementia.
This first post was written by my sister; my mom's 3rd child. Grab the tissues...I sure did!
Remembering Deana: Part I, By Christina Alves-Avila
Dementia has truly changed the person my mother was. My mother was fun, intelligent, giving, and devoted to her family and church. My mother held many positions (unpaid) in our church over the years and hardly ever missed church. She set a positive example for my siblings and me to follow.
When I was a child, I remember my mom attending the community college a couple of nights a week for a couple of years, maybe more, to get her Associate's Degree. My sister, brother, and I would stay home with my dad on these nights. I remember my mom doing her homework during the week. I still remember her walking in her graduation, though I was still fairly young. My mom demonstrated to me at a young age that education is important, and this is a belief I have carried with me throughout my life.
Something important to me that I will always remember is my parents’ love for one another. My sister, brother, and I used to get grossed out when my parents would “make-out” in front of us. My mom used to say, “At least you know your parents love each other!” And we did. I rarely saw my parents argue. They usually took it behind closed doors. A few times I caught on that they were at odds about something, and I would usually find a flower or something on my mom’s pillow the next day.
Something I will always remember about my mom is the way she would wake us up in the morning. She would come into our rooms singing in her opera voice, “Good morning! Time to get up!” Alternatively, she would often sing the song “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” (from the movie Oklahoma!). Occasionally, when we did not respond to her singing, she would come into our doorways with a water bottle and squirt us until we jumped out of bed, wet and angry. What a way to start the day!
As a boy-crazy teenage girl, I put my mom through a lot of worry and many sleepless nights. There was no question in my mind that my mom cared about me because she was active in my life. When I did something wrong, I was given a consequence. I would get mad at her for “ruining my life”, but deep down inside, I knew I was lucky because many of my friends did not have parents who showed that kind of love and concern. In some ways, I was a bit of rebel, but I never snuck out my window, tried drugs or alcohol, or did a lot of other things that my friends did because I knew that my mom would find out.
My mom was at every event I participated in as a child. She was at the Spelling Bee that I won in 5th grade. She was also at the one in 7th grade, when I misspelled "eureka" and cried on her shoulder. From fifth grade through high school, she came to every choir concert. My ambition as a child and young woman was to become a singer/songwriter. When I turned eighteen, she took me to a convention in Los Angeles for aspiring artists and paid for the hotel room. It was at this age, in my young adulthood, that I began to identify with my mom as not just a mother, but as a friend.
When I got pregnant with my first child at the age of eighteen, unmarried and still living at home, I told my mom first. I knew my mom would be calmer than my dad and felt less-threatened by the thought of telling her first and letting her tell my dad. My mom suspected the pregnancy before I even told her about it – she must have had that maternal intuition. I told her, and she cried. She and my dad tried to talk me into adoption, without success. My mom went to childbirth preparation classes with me. She went to doctor’s appointments and ultrasounds with me, and, when my son was born, she took me to the hospital and stayed by my side. My mother was also in the hospital with me for the births of my other two children.
My mom helped me tremendously over the next several years. She babysat the kids often. Being a preschool teacher, she took an interest in helping the kids learn. She decorated my wedding cake and birthday cakes for my kids. She always gave me motherly advice – how to discipline, what to do when they get sick.
But her ability and willingness to help with the kids slowly diminished over the years. She became fatigued, irritable, and impatient. She has become more and more disinterested in the events of my life, perhaps partially due to her inability to understand everything going on around her. She no longer has advice to give. Though she is still physically here, I have suffered a loss – the loss of my mother and one of my closest friends.
My mom is young, and I am too young to lose her. Then I look at my friends who have their moms much sooner and realize that there is always someone who has it worse. I am grateful for the memories I have with my mom. Because my mom was involved, because we made so many memories when I was young, I have so much to hold on to and remember her by.
If you'd like to contribute a story, please read this post and contact me.