A sad, older woman wears many different name tags, each suggesting a different name in different handwriting.

Who Are You? (Part Two)

It is so painful to watch your loved one leave you. Even more so when you have been married for over 60 years. Mom endured that pain for a number of years as Dad progressed into this No Man’s Land called Alzheimer’s. In part one, I talked about how my dad slowly stopped recognizing my mom. I continue that story here.

Who my mom was that day

As I look back, Dad not only struggled with knowing who mom was, but it also changed from moment to moment. He knew who she was for some of the time. Then he wouldn’t know her at all. Mom has been:

  1. Mom
  2. His sister
  3. His mom
  4. “This nice lady”
  5. A different wife
  6. A total stranger

I can barely get my head around it. I can’t even begin to imagine what mom must have felt, let alone what dad was dealing with. There were clues though and associations that my husband and I could make to try to understand. Let me explain each of these.

Who was my mom to my dad?

Mom, of course, was mom, at least some of the time. Mom’s name is Jean. Dad’s sister’s name was Jean. Mom has grey hair, so did Aunt Jean. The two Jeans were very close in age. They were best friends too. When my husband and I looked at pictures of mom and Aunt Jean together you could see they looked very much alike. In my mom and dad’s home, there were no pictures of themselves but there were pictures in the room of Aunt Jean. No wonder he may have thought mom was Aunt Jean.

I tried to put myself in dad’s shoes. If I realized mom and Aunt Jean were ‘missing’ I think it would have been logical for dad to look to the next woman he remembered feeling safe with, his mother. Maybe that’s why he thought mom was grandma.

Mom became “this nice lady” as dad became more and more confused. I recall talking to dad on the phone almost weekly and he’d refer to this nice lady that lives at the house. He didn’t know her name but she was ok, he guessed. I tried to tell him it was mom to no avail.

At one visit, dad pulled me aside and told me he needed a lawyer because he was married to two women. One, of course, was mom. The other was some other woman. I told him he was only married to mom. That went nowhere. I told him I’d find him a lawyer.

Then, in devastation, mom became a total stranger to him.

Dad eventually lost my name and who I was to him but I always believed there was some recognition that he knew me. That was a good thing in all of this. It was the same for my brothers.

Recognizing my husband, but not me

Interesting though, dad always knew my husband, Steve, right to the end. It saddened my husband that dad knew him and not me. I was just glad that dad could still recognize someone who loved him. It seemed so bizarre though. A friend of ours helped us to understand. Dad knew my husband only as an adult. My husband never changed very much in the time dad knew him. Mom changed over 60 years in appearance. I changed. My brothers changed. Their wives changed. My dad’s sister changed. My husband didn’t change. It was easier for dad to recognize and hold on to Steve. It made perfect sense.

On the humorous side, dad also always knew my brother’s dog, Dixie. Even when dad lost his ability to speak, you could see in his eyes, he knew Dixie when she would visit the nursing home. Dad always loved my brother’s dog.

I can only imagine how difficult this part of the journey had been for my mom. She had to remember for both of them all the while enduring the pain of losing him.

If you missed part 1, you can find it here!

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