It was a long, painful goodbye

Every year that passes since my mother’s passing somehow doesn’t make it any easier to look back on that loss.

Yet I am going to do so again right now as I remember Mom’s birthday. She was born on July 11, 1923 in Portland, Ore. Her parents were immigrants from Turkey. They were of Greek descent. My grandfather was a merchant sailor; my grandmother came to the United States on her own. She was the embodiment of intrepidity. My grandfather eventually stepped off the boat and settled in Portland, running a bakery.

Mom was the first of three children they would produce. Mnostoula was her name. She was a pistol as a young woman. She used to recall that time in her life.

However, Mom was dealt a bad hand in life. She didn’t live very long. She died in 1984 at the age of 61. She didn’t get the chance to celebrate nearly enough birthdays.

Mom’s passing came at the end of an agonizing period for her family. We were forced to watch her disappear in the proverbial sense. Alzheimer’s disease took its terrible toll on Mom over the span of time.

I want to mention that today because I am acutely aware that we are not alone. We know that many millions of families just like ours have gone through this misery. They know how it is to watch your loved one change. Sure, they look the same, but they aren’t the same.

It’s hard for me to recall the good times because the sadness of the long goodbye was so overpowering.

Mom was full of quick quips. Mom didn’t guffaw at the punchline of a good joke, but instead she would giggle in a sort of charming way.

Then the giggles came less frequently. Eventually she was unable to produce the quips that I remember. Over time she lost the ability to write her name, or to drive a car. Then she couldn’t bathe herself. Or feed herself.

Mom eventually she lost her speech.

All the while, Mom’s physical presence remained essentially the same. Except that the essence of who she was disappeared. It was gone forever.

Alzheimer’s disease afflicts an increasing number of families. It is said that the disease has a far greater impact on the caregivers than on the actual patients. Take my word for it, that is so very true.

It also serves to remind those in power that as the nation gets older the more imperative it should become to dedicate resources to find effective treatments to stem the symptoms of this relentless killer. Is there a cure on the horizon? Oh, we are left to hope and pray.

Another birthday is about to pass without Mom being around to enjoy it. She’s been gone a long time. The struggles she faced during her time on Earth remain vivid in the hearts and minds of those who loved her.

Happy birthday, Mom. I still miss you.

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