By Alisa Carroll
I love you, mom.
My mom and I have always been best friends. She laughs easily and beautifully and has, her entire life, been the most animated and spirited person I know. She has been my cheerleader and encourager, and me hers –always at one another’s sides in times of need and celebration.
One of her dreams was to go to India, where her father was born, and to see the Taj Mahal. I vowed we would go. While we never made it to India, we did have a wonderful life-changing three weeks in Africa together that included two thrilling safaris, a heart-pumping flight in a prop plane across the Okavango Delta, and an awe-inspiring and frightening trip down the hippo-laden Zambezi in a mokoro.
We loved recounting that trip and reflecting on our time together – not just in Africa but our whole lives. To watch my mom’s memory slip away has been excruciating. There were some early signs but we laughed them off as mom being mom. “She’s always been a little forgetful.” But it got worse. She lost her way while driving, couldn’t count change at her retail job, forgot to turn off the oven. Then one night in January she was seen walking down the street with her purse over her shoulder muttering that there was someone in her house, but she didn’t know where she lived.
I moved her a few months later in 2015 from Northern Michigan to Seattle. She was 75 and had been officially diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. She looked young and she had no health or physical limitations. How could she be losing her brain?
Her first home here was The Lakeshore. Her stay was short. The nurses said she was “exit seeking.” I said she was ice cream seeking and asked if they could do anything about that. She has now been in adult family homes for the past 5 years, currently in Bellevue at a place that overlooks Lake Sammamish.
She’s in a wheelchair now and can’t feed or bathe herself. When I visit, we spend time together alone in her small, warm room and I wrap my arms around her and hug her as tight as I can like I always did. I look in her eyes and I tell her stories about us and our family. While she might not know me by name, I feel like she sees me and knows me. She mumbles a bit, and she still laughs. And that is the best.
I’m so happy to volunteer, in honor of my mom, for such a personally meaningful organization that’s helping fund research to find a cure for this disease. I love you mom.
Alisa Carroll began serving on the Marketing & Communications Committee in October 2020 and will be joining the Washington State Chapter’s Board of Directors this summer. She brings many years of corporate communications experience to the team. In her volunteer role, she provides guidance and counsel to Chapter staff, helping to raise critical awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and the resources available to help. We are grateful to Alisa for her time, expertise and leadership as a Washington State Chapter volunteer.
Through the efforts of talented, caring volunteers, we are able to deliver programs, fund research and support people affected by Alzheimer’s. If you are interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities with the Alzheimer’s Association Washington State Chapter, visit alzwa.org/volunteer.