The Teacher

Life is clearly a series of transitions. We should be used to that by now. So many I know are in the midst of some achingly abrupt and difficult transitions. The hardest ones seem to the be the ones no one asked for.

I have friends who are grieving the loss of their loved ones. Some are grieving breaking or broken marriages. Some are agonizing over the painful transitions of their children in trying to launch into the real world or who are struggling with addiction, anxiety, learning differences or depression. People I know keep getting difficult diagnoses. I know some right now who are transitioning from this life to the next or sitting near a loved one who is.

I have two sets of friends who are literally going through everything they own in order to move to different countries for a work season. I know some who are in the midst of big job changes, some they didn’t ask for.

My family has been wrapping our hearts around my mom’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis which became official last June after revealing itself slowly a few years before that. She does not like to call it that. She believes she has normal “old people forgetfulness.” We try sometimes to gently remind her that it is more than that but I don’t suppose it matters.

My mom was an elementary school teacher. She’s still teaching me, even through her own transition. As Alzheimer’s erases her memory, she is forced to stay anchored in the present: the this day, this moment, present. Her disease has made her more attentive, more reflective even. We spend Wednesdays together. One of her favorite topics is for me to tell her about my childhood. I’m a storyteller anyway and not that many people are asking about my childhood these days, so I find it delightful. She hangs on every word. She’ll say, “I remember that!” Or, “I was a good mom, wasn’t I?”

She gets more caught up in the moment we are in. Last week, at a restaurant, she said she loved me and asked if she could kiss me. One kiss led to more all over my face. With the business lunch crowd looking on, she kissed and loved on me as if I was 9 months old. I just let every single kiss soak right in.

She stays in the present. She savors things, gratefully. She loves playing Tetris and beating me, every time. She loves a nice cold glass of Chardonnay. She loves peppermints, iced coffee, ice cream, playing Solitaire and Words with Friends on her Kindle. She will look at pictures of her loved ones all day long. She often names the things she likes, like a Holy litany.

Almost every time we are together, she tells me to look at the sky. “Can you believe how blue it is?” “Look at that tiny cloud over there!” “I’ve never seen the sky look so beautiful, have you?”

I do not romanticize her disease or what is coming for all of us. I know how hard and long and ever changing our journey will be.

But for now, in this transition-no-one-asked-for, she’s still teaching. I think her lesson points can work for anyone going through a hard season.

Stay in today. It is all we really have.

If you love someone, tell them and kiss them all over their face.

Savor little things, gratefully. Name what is good in your life over and over and give thanks.

And, for God’s sake, and yours, look up. Look up.

9 thoughts on “The Teacher

  1. Carol Tummarello

    What a beautiful picture of mother daughter love! How blessed you both are! Thanks , as always, for sharing.

    Reply
  2. Brian (@bwdill)

    Cindy – we love reading your blog. As I struggle with my father’s Alzheimer’s I have grown to appreciate each time I am around him a little more than normal. He may ask me the same question four times – my goal is to find four different ways to answer it. Thank you for all you share!!

    Reply
  3. Lara Labbe-Maginel

    Hi Cindy. Thank you so much for sharing your story. My Mother in law was recently diagnosed with dimentia and we are in transition with understanding the ins and outs of the disease. The lessons your mother is teaching you and all of us through you are very real and very precious. Take care. Sincerely, An old friend from Graham, Lara Labbe-Maginel

    Reply
  4. Karen Watson

    Just reading this post, can’t even express into words how much I love it. Beautiful picture of you and your sweet mom. As a family who dealt with
    this disease with Walt’s mom, can so relate. Thank you so much for this post and sharing your gift. Looking up my friend.

    Reply
  5. Betsy Kelley

    Beautiful, Cindy – thank you! And give your mom some kisses from me and my mom until we come for our visit next month! (Geez, it is hard to type with tears in my eyes…
    )

    Reply

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