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Things Get Small

My mom was an artist. She worked in various jobs to pay the bills but she painted thousands of pieces. I put together a small booklet of her art as part of her memorial.


Before she passed away, I tried to engage her in things that interested her. By Spring of 2016, she was failing rapidly. That's when I bought her some coloring pencils, some drawing paper, and I said, "Mom, why don't you draw something?" She asked, "What?"

"I don't know," I said. "Things you used to draw. Flowers, maybe?"


And she started! I felt so good. I did something right in a time when not much felt right while caring for her. She had Alzheimer's disease. She was angry one minute. The next, watching a John Wayne movie. An Alzheimer's world can turn topsy-turvy instant by instant. Anyway, I left her in her studio to draw.


About a half hour later, I came back and found she'd stopped drawing. When I looked at her work, there were quite a few pictures--flowers, dogs, cats, houses, windows--but they were in miniature. Each one about one inch square. Her mind was shrinking and so was her vision of the world. I was a little shocked but praised her work and we went back to the regular routine. The effort it took was apparent. She was tired and almost weak from the mental exertion. The next day, she refused to draw.


With Bob, he has shown similar signs of things getting small--in his hands holding onto tiny objects, in his steps, his five to my one. In the way he eats. He used to cram food into a happy, wide open mouth. Now, I have to beg him, "Open bigger, honey." How you and I open our mouths to take a bite, what? A couple inches? Bob only opens his mouth only a half inch.


The convergence of patterns--of Mom's and Bob's--can't be more obvious. It's the mind eroding. With Alzheimer's, the kind of brain disease Mom had, tissue erodes.


Per Alz.org, The structural imaging has shown "that the brains of people with Alzheimer's shrink significantly as the disease progresses, structural imaging research also has shown that shrinkage in specific brain regions such as the hippocampus may be an early sign of Alzheimer's."


With Frontotemporal dementia, the kind of brain disease Bob has, this is what hopkinsmedicine.org says:


Frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a common cause of dementia, is a group of disorders that occur when nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain are lost. This causes the lobes to shrink.


I just learned this today. I only wanted to write about how small things become for people with brain diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia. How they outwardly exhibit this odd sense of smallness in their actions. Probably their thoughts too. Certainly, their speech. Mom's sentences became truncated. Bob lost all his words.


What I didn't know is that the brain is actually shrinking. I knew the Alzheimer's brain gets carved out a lot like an Etch-a-Sketch. I did not realize a similar result happens with FTD.


For me, this is a profoundly sad revelation. Observing this, first in Mom and now in Bob, is of telling importance.


I didn't know yesterday what I know today. I wish I could go back to before I searched "What happens to the brain with Alzheimer's?" And then, "What happens to the brain in frontotemporal dementia?"


All I know is I wanted to write about how small things get for the dementia patient. I didn't realize why. Now, I want to forget what I've learned. I want to erase my knowledge that it was approximately six to eight months, when Mom's world got smaller, that she passed away.


I wish I didn't have this knowledge because now, I am fast-forwarding the info onto Bob. At a time when I need to stay in the present.


I can't help Bob without the present.


And no one, not Bob or I have the promise of tomorrow. We only have now.


I'll choose to hang onto now because I have Bob in a world of now.


And I loathe what will become of our tomorrow.


“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34


Amen to that.


God bless you all.

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Oh Susan...sending you a big virtual hug.

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