This week I am taking a personal trip to New York to visit someone special to me. My aunt Mickey is 95 years old and is living with Alzheimer’s. No one ever expects the disease that tarnishes memories to hit their family. I sure didn’t expect it! I have learned over the years how to support, love, and care for those people we love. I know my aunt Mickey is well taken care of. If there is anything I can do, it is to make sure she is living with comfort and dignity.
Every visit I take to see my Aunt Mickey is like the last. I plan an itinerary. This way we can avoid any complications and unnecessary distractions. Loving someone with a memory problem can be difficult. It almost goes against our own nature to be adventurous and spontaneous. The risk of spontaneity is that my aunt must feel safe, this is my number one priority. Mickey has no short-term memory capacity, but she gets excited when I visit. She knows that we will be together and that we will go see her sister Teresa.
Steve and I take my Aunt Mickey to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and pray for our family. Steve proposed to me 6 weeks ago and Aunt Mickey believes it happened today. Every time I tell her she lights up! Then we go to the cemetery in Florence, New York to see my mother Joan. After that we go to the same church we’ve always gone to for service. I walk close to my aunt, and hold her hand and make sure she feels embraced. Showing her love and affection is necessary on my part, I need to let her know that I love and care for her. Loneliness and isolation do not support her mental health.
There’s a small deli shop snuggled into the warmth of a brick building. We go there after church to order cold cuts. The place hasn’t changed in 40 years. Every time we step foot in that place I am sure my aunt recognizes it. She would come to this shop to buy lunch meat for the family–every Sunday after church.
Then we drive to Holtsville to see her sister, my aunt Teresa, who is 96 years old. We reminisce about the past. At first, it confuses Mickey, but after enough conversation, she begins to understand. Sometimes she can get worried, but she knows that I am her niece. When she feels content again, she will tell me how she would pick me up when I was little. We would go to the candy store and I always had to have the most expensive piece of candy.
Now that I have my first grandson and I get to tell her every day about the baby. She thinks the baby is newborn but he’s already four months old. I always tell her that my mom would be a great-grandmother now if she was still with us. Every time I show her a picture of the baby, she gets so happy…“Now whose baby is that?” she asks.
The full moon rose on March 1, 2018, and snow is falling today (March 2nd). The full moon has always been a sign to my aunt Mickey. She and my mother would spend all night on the phone talking to the moon, and Mickey was telling me about it. There is no coincidence, this trip was divine.