Helping Oklahoma City Alzheimer’s patient uncovers worries for the future
‘Drawing on Memories’ art class hits close to home
By Carrie Coppernoll
Published: April 2, 2009
I knew her name.
"That’s my mother’s name,” I said.
We sat shoulder to shoulder, facing the paints and brushes, in the dining room of an Alzheimer’s ward. About a dozen patients and this woman with wispy gray hair came for a Drawing on Memories art class sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association.
I volunteered along with the nursing home staff to help the patients paint Mardi Gras masks. The masks will be sold at the Masque in Black & White gala, a fundraising dinner for the Alzheimer’s Association.
The woman looked at me with gray eyes and a weak smile and asked if I would paint for her. Of course, I told her. She introduced herself again. I figured she forgot my name and was too embarrassed to ask. I introduced myself again.
Sharing our lives
She chose the colors — pink and blue — and she told me where to paint. She painted a bit herself, but she was too tired to do it all alone. She kept introducing herself, and we kept having the same conversation. We talked about our families and our jobs.
Every time she introduced herself, we started our friendship again, and every conversation was a draft I could edit. As we painted, I discovered she wanted to talk about her daughters but not her husband. She liked remembering her childhood but not the lonely room at the nursing home. She asked me to be her roommate. She asked me to come back to visit. I agreed because it made her happy and I knew she would forget.
She introduced herself over and over. And every time I would say, "That’s my mother’s name.”
That’s my mother’s name.
My mother’s name.
Will this be my mother?
My grandmother lost her battle to Alzheimer’s when I was in middle school. The disease still haunts our family. We analyze forgetfulness, wondering whether it’s normal or a sign of something sinister. Each of us secretly worries we too will be swallowed up by the vast emptiness of the disease.
I left the table and cried.
I came back and she introduced herself again. "That’s my mother’s name,” I said. She smiled.
When I volunteered to help at the Alzheimer’s unit, I knew I would see my grandmother’s face among the women here. I didn’t imagine I’d see my mother. Or myself.
Contact Carrie --Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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