By Anne Richardson
Part of processing my mother’s unfolding journey with Alzheimer’s has been to write poetry. This was the first poem where Alzheimer’s evolved as its own character and I allowed myself to address “her” directly. Even that took several drafts, as I originally kept myself at a distance (referring to myself as “daughter” not “I.”) Alzheimer’s can be frustrating, dis-empowering, and draining. Reading my poem released my bottled up story and gave back some of the power that “Alzy” has taken away from the relationship between my mother and I.
At first Alzy stopped by for occasional visits.
She enjoyed reminiscing and distracting you from
the boredom of everyday retirement, widowhood, aging.
Then she became that new friend who invited herself
along on a trip to the grocery store.
Telling you what you need and discarding your list.
Soon she was inviting herself to dinner, staying for dessert,
watching TV into the wee hours.
She never offered to do the dishes.
Eventually she moved in and she became so familiar—
you forgot to tell your daughter about her.
And she said it was okay to take long naps in the afternoon,
those bills really didn’t need to be paid,
and why take that medication anyway.
She would go driving with you and give you bad directions.
When your daughter found out about Alzy
and asked about why she is taking up so much of your time
you got upset, so she just stopped asking.
And the three of you learn to dance together
in a new sort of relationship
that feels lonely.
Your daughter wonders what happened to your forgotten memories.
Did Alzy shred them?
Put them in recycling? Or maybe they are in the storage unit and
she’ll bring a few back some day.
Some moments you understand your new friend had taken over your life
but the moment passes. And Alzy?
She has days she is generous
and some days she is stingy in
Your daughter wants to ask Alzy if she has a daughter
who is waiting to be her unbidden friend, waiting for
30 years to pass
so she can sidle up
beside her with a case full of pastel
paints ready to cover her
And when she visits with the two of you—it
feels lonely and
she wants to
your unwelcome friend