My mother, Virginia Rose Morrow Black, has not known who I am for the past 6 years. She plays with the stuffed animals she is holding in the above photo and I believe she no longer knows the difference between a living being and an inanimate object.
Alzheimer's disease has been applying itself like nail polish to her brain cells for at least 10 years. Her brain has been shrinking for a long time now.
I have been in Wisconsin over from Ireland for the past year, helping my sister care for our mother.
The worst year.
It is now my mother's time to die.
It takes me at least an hour to feed her at each meal. Sometimes longer. She often forgets how to chew her food --sucking on it instead of using her teeth. In the mornings for some wonderful reason, she is often able to feed herself and eats well. So I sit with her and watch as she slowly picks up a grape and aims it towards her mouth. It's like watching a golf ball heading for the hole. It's like a touch down when she can actually pick up a spoon, get it into the bowl of cereal and successfully connect it with her mouth.
After a big breakfast, the rest of the day is spent sleeping in her lift chair except when I wake her up for lunch and dinner. We play opera arias. She likes Puccini and Verdi. And Lawrence Welk. That is the only television show that sometimes holds her sporadic attention.
At bed time, since she can no longer stand up, my sister lifts her from her wheelchair while I pull her diaper and pants down and aim her bottom towards the portable toilet.
One day, almost a year ago now, when I was sitting with her on her bed, she looked at me and said: "Am I dead?"
I lied and said, "No."
Brenna Briggs is the author of the Liffey Rivers Irish Dancer mysteries.