Column: A time for family and making memories

Nov. 23, 2013 @ 04:13 PM

Reflecting on Thanksgiving is good for the soul.

This year I will spend Thanksgiving with my brothers and sisters, their spouses and children in Illinois. It’s rare that we all ever get together, as we are scattered from east to west, north to south. But our dear, sweet mother has entered the final stages of her nearly 13-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease, and we want to spend the holiday with her and each other.

This year I will be giving thanks for my mother and the many gifts that she brought to our family. Her sweet temperament and her many acts of kindness are two of her qualities that I will always remember. Her compassion as an obstetrics delivery room nurse was well known by the many doctors and families she served. It was not uncommon for women to run up to her at the grocery store, restaurants or mall to show her pictures of the children that she helped deliver. If a woman was troubled or scared, doctors would routinely send my mother in, as she had such a calming demeanor.

Thankfully my mother had a great deal of patience, and with my father and their five children, it was well-used.

Along with her patience and great heart, she also had a nice sense of humor. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, a good sense of humor can get one through the tough times, as well as making the good times more enjoyable.

She was talented in many ways, especially in the kitchen as an award-winning dessert and candy cook.

Over the past eight years, she has been cared for in a home that specializes in Alzheimer’s. I have many fond memories of the early years of her struggle, including the drives in my convertible, stops at the Sonic Drive-In or the Lagomarcino’s Candy Shop or a drive through a park with amazing gardens. Perhaps my favorite memory was one day with the top down and driving down Brady Hill in Davenport, Iowa, I encouraged her to wave her arms in the air, like Thelma and Louise. As we both waved our arms, hair blowing and laughing like crazy, she asked, “Who the heck are Thelma and Louise, and are we related to them?” See? Even then, a great sense of humor.

But over the years the disease robbed her of her memory and her health. After one visit about four years ago, I was leaving after one of our weekly visits and she said, “Goodbye, Terese. I love you.” Her words stopped me in my tracks because she had not said my name in over a year. Outside, in the parking lot I just lost it, crying like a little girl because she said my name, and I wondered if she ever would again. She never has.

Thanksgiving is a time for family and making memories. Here’s hoping that yours is special. Mine will be.