Yesterday, a friend sent me a link to Glen Campbell’s final music video with the comment that she found the song comforting. I do too, but…click the link, I’ll wait.
I have watched this video and listened intently to the words, oh, probably a dozen times since. I am alternately heart broken and comforted, watching through streaming tears, hoping against hope that what he says is true.
It’s not gonna hurt me when you cry
I’m never gonna know what you go through
All the things I say or do
All the hurt and all the pain
One thing selfishly remains
I’m not gonna miss you
I’m not gonna miss you
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” by Glen Campbell – (C) 2014 Big Machine Records, LLC
Glen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011 and recorded this song, his final performance, in January 2013. It is an incredible and touching tribute to his wife and family, and a brave step to shine a light on a disease that is poised to become an epidemic as the huge population of baby boomers ages. In April he was admitted to a specialized facility for the final stage of Alzheimer’s.
As many of you know, my mom was diagnosed in 2012, and due to her decline, we recently had to move her from Assisted Living to a specialized Memory Care unit as well. Though she still knows me, and most of the time she knows that I am her daughter, I am not sure she remembers my name.
With her decline, I am trying to change my behavior to meet her where she is, rather than try to bring her back to my world. I tell her my name when I see her now. I use the names of my sister, my nephew, and my husband whenever I refer to them. I remind her that my father/her husband passed away, how many siblings I have, how many grandchildren she has, or that her first language was German. She usually replies “Oh, I didn’t know that”.
My mother and I had a difficult relationship for most of my life, and really didn’t spend any significant time together as adults until she was diagnosed and I moved her to be near me almost two years ago. Growing up, I was a daddy’s girl, but my father passed away when I was just 22. I was a tomboy, and loved horses, then cars, and then motorcycles. I didn’t care much about fashion, or makeup, or shopping, which were common interests for my mom and sister, and they were always both much slimmer and more fashionable than me. I compared myself to them, and never developed a healthy body image, nor had any help in cultivating one. In the last few years, with a focus on exercise, yoga, meditation and an overhaul of my eating habits, I have finally come in to my own. I feel good in my own skin. Yesterday, in this stage of Mom’s Alzheimer’s, she gave me a gift she couldn’t give me growing up.
We were at her dentist, waiting for the hygienist. I went to the counter to check in, and then returned to sit next to her in the waiting area. She started to speak; “You have a nice…” and could not find the words to finish her thought. She made the hourglass figure with her hands. I said “figure?” And she said “yes, you look good!” I struggled to keep from crying in the waiting room. I have cried over and over since, reliving that moment, that genuine gift, that I never could have expected, knowing the moments that she can express herself will grow farther and farther between.
I know that it’s only going to get worse. More than anything, being with Mom reminds me that we must live for the NOW, moment by moment. We have to enjoy them while we can. My only comfort is to think that as she declines, it will become less and less painful for her.
She’s not gonna miss me.