My Mother’s Tour with J. S. Bach

“Look!  All this music is by Bach!” my mother exclaimed, pointing to the pile the table in her room.  “Isn’t it amazing there’s so much by just one composer?”

79 years old, and she’s played the piano for, probably, 75 of them.  And now, Alzheimer’s Disease, despite its cruelties, brings surprising joys.  A stack of Henle editions, over a foot tall, culled from her bookcase of music, now assembled on the desk in her “Legacy Neighborhood” room, there to be discovered, as if for the first time.

“That really is something, Mom.”

She plays the piano every day.  That was the big challenge, finding a place where she could be taken care of well, and have her piano.  Memory-care facilities, the ones based on current thinking, anyway, don’t have individual apartments with kitchenettes.  Everyone has nice big bedroom with a sitting area, but the place is designed so you want to come out of the room, so you need to in order to eat.  It’s to keep people from isolating themselves (plus few if any of these lovely people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia could cook for themselves).  The director of this place, which I’d initially ruled out, found a room where my mother’s Steinway B could live. It’s a large “private dining room.”  The idea is you can bring the family over and have a meal together.  It sounds and looks good when you look at the place.  But not many people bring over the whole family to have dinner with Grandma, especially when she can’t remember who you are. The piano looks good in there.  A win-win solution.

She recognized me today.  She always has.  Never addressed me by name, though.  That was a bit tough.  I kept waiting to hear it.

It’s been a couple of months since we’ve seen each other.  I’ve been living in New York since mid-January and have made only one trip back before this. She’d recognize my name.  It just didn’t come to her.  She was excited to see me, my daughter, and my ex-wife.  We’d been to my son’s college graduation.

“He came to visit me in Florida, you know.” She beamed.

My daughter and I were a bit startled. “Who, Mom? J. S. Bach?”

“Oh, yes.  He brought me this music himself.”

One voice inside me wanted to say are you fucking crazy? He died in 1750!  Another said, relax.  You’re in her world for now.

OK.  Might as well play along.

“Wow, Mom, I didn’t know that.”

“He and I went around to schools. I played for them and he gave them Bach’s music.” (Interesting sentence formation, I thought.  Not, “He gave them his music.”  “He gave them Bach’s music.”  Was “he” still “Bach”?)

She seemed so happy at the memory.  Sharing the music.  I have a lot of nice memories.  Some not so nice ones, too.  When and if my actual memories dissolve, a nice replacement would be a tour with J. S. Bach.

it was that kid of morning.  I cried some when we left.  Allison, my ex-wife and such a dear friend, reminded me that I’d told about someone who said he’d fallen in love with the woman his mother, who had dementia, had become.  I’m there, I guess, but I still miss the woman she used to be.

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Filed under and everything, Dealing with dementia, family life

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