I have been out of commission the last couple of days. After school on Tuesday, I got word that my mother, Dorothy, who had been battling Alzheimers for several years, was "actively dying" and that I should get down to the Twin Cities as quickly as possible. I grabbed my suit, threw a few things in a bag, ran back to the school and got something together for a substitute, filled the car up with gas, and put the pedal to the metal. Mom died this morning at about 5:00.
My mother was a wonderful person. She was a working mother before being a working mother was in. She went to work at Northwestern hospital in Minneapolis as a medical technician after my dad was laid off from his job as a claims adjuster at the Federal Arsenal in New Brighton. (He later got a job as a title investigator for the Minnesota State Highway Department.) I was in third grade at the time, and she worked at Northwestern for the next 23 years until she retired. Mom was an outstanding cook, and a great seamstress. She was also very independent and highly intelligent, which made it so hard to see her go through the mental deterioration and loss of independence that inevitably accompany Alzheimers. One thing that we will probably remember about her as much as anything else, however, was how incredibly funny she was. When my sons were little, whenever they would go someplace in a car with her, they would come back roaring with laughter, and equipped with more "Grandma Dorothy" stories. My all-time favorite Grandma Dorothy story actually took place after the Alzheimers had begun taking its toll on her, but it was so typically Grandma Dorothy that I will close with it.
Three years ago, it became clear that Mom would no longer be able to get along by herself. (My dad died in 1975.) My brother, Mike, and his wife, Mary, who live in the Twin Cities, found a high quality assisted-care facility called Rosewood Estates in St. Paul. Shortly after moving in, Mom met a very nice gentleman named Carl, who also had Alzheimers. Soon, the talk of Rosewood Estates was the romance going on between this 90-year-old man and an 85-year-old woman. The punch-line to this story came when my sister-in-law first heard of this romance. She called Mom to see how things were going, and my mom said that she had met a man and they were going to get married. Mary obviously didn't know what to make of this, so she said, "Oh? What's his name?" My mom replied in classic Grandma Dorothy fashion: "I can't remember. But he's in the bathroom, so when he comes out, I'll ask him."
Good-bye, Mom. Your sons, your daughters-in-law, and your grandchildren will miss you.