It has been a little over a year since Alzheimer’s stole my mother-in-law away. As her birthday approaches, her visits to my memories have become more frequent, filling me with a longing for her boundless optimism and warmth to be present in our lives once again.
Our visits were always met with great joy. Her laughter reached you before the door flew open and outstretched arms swept you into a warm embrace. Cheerful chatter followed you into the kitchen as you glided into conversation sprinkled with exclamations, questions and more laughter. Listening carefully, her hands would shape the conversation.
Clapping her hands together with delight would encourage a faster pace that brought more laughter, more detail. A crescendo was encouraged when throwing both hands up in the air with a tilt of her head and a hearty laugh, while bringing her right hand to her chest or lips would direct you to slow the tempo of your story down and allow you to feel its rhythm. These choreographed conversations brought unity and harmony to our family. I miss them.
Not only did her elegant hands bring music into our lives, they also brought beauty. Gently gripping a pastel, her long fingers would gradually unveil their vision as they moved across the paper – a blend of beauty and emotion to hang in our memory. I miss her presence in the clutter of her studio.
In the last couple of years of the disease, she fell into herself. Our visits found her statuesque in her recliner, her hands still in her lap. Her laughter imprisoned. It was my turn to outstretch my arms and fold her fading body into an embrace. It was my turn to attempt to conduct our conversation and bring beauty into her life.
If I was fortunate, her eyes lit up with recognition and a laugh escaped bringing back great joy. I miss her.