My mom has Alzheimer's Disease. We hear about this disease a lot these days, especially when President Reagan was alive. He suffered with it for ten years. There are books and movies about it, like The Notebook and ACFW's Deborah Raney's A Vow to Cherish. But if you don't personally know someone living with Alzheimer's, you can't really grasp the meanness and often hopelessness of this disease.
Mom was 74 when I first noticed signs that something was wrong. Living 700 miles from my parents, I only saw them twice a year. We made the most of our visits though. In the summer, we'd load everyone up and head to the mountains for an afternoon picnic. In winter, celebrating the holidays together was the highlight.
It was during our Christmas visit one year that I knew something was wrong. Mom was the best fudge maker, ever! Her fudge was famous in our family! When any of us kids (there are five of us) couldn't make it home for the holidays, we knew a two pound box of fudge would soon arrive in the mail. That year, Mom and I were in the kitchen preparing to make fudge. We got out pots and pans and then...Mom looked at me with the blankest stare I've ever seen.
"Now what do we do?" she asked.
I laughed. "What do you mean? You're the fudge-making expert."
But the blank stare continued and I realized she was serious. We did make the fudge, with me reading off the yellowed recipe card she hadn't used in decades.
The next day was December 24. It's been a long-standing tradition in our family to have a Mexican food buffet on Christmas Eve, with Mom's famous Chicken Enchiladas as the main course. The afternoon was filled with preparations for the evening when all our family would come together for food, fellowship, and presents. Mom wandered into the kitchen at one point. A confused and worried expression marred her features.
"What's wrong, Mom?" I asked.
"What are we going to serve for dinner? Everyone is coming over and I don't know what to serve."
I frowned. "Well, Mom, you're going to make your Chicken Enchiladas that everyone loves."
She looked at me with surprise. "Do I know how to make Chicken Enchiladas?"
That was the moment I knew something was terribly, horribly wrong.
(Continued next time)