Mom – Free of Her Alzheimer’s Prison

MomMy mother, Betty Louise (Stetson) Torrey, died this week.  I’m sad, mourning our loss, and grieving, of course.

But I also rejoice!  Because more than a decade of Alzheimer’s disease had ravaged her brain, and her body, and she was not Mom for many, too many years.  She is now free of that prison.

I wish you could have known my mother.  Intelligent and funny, caring, talented and clever, she brightened a room when she walked through its door.  She had a beautiful singing voice which graced school auditoriums and church sanctuaries, and a mean golf swing which found its way through more than two dozen countries across the globe, and resulted in three holes-in-one!  She loved the Buffalo Bills, the Buffalo Sabres, and Syracuse University sports.  She was a master calligrapher and could cross-stitch her way to the moon and back.

All that and more.

The “more” came in the form of being a loving and supportive partner to my dad and, from my own perspective, a great mom and grandmother, too.  The life lessons she shared were the basics — cooking, cleaning, etc.  But more than that, my sisters and I learned concepts that have stood the test of time and have made us better people.

So my tribute — this post — will be about sharing two of those life lessons with you, so you can understand better what I mean.

Mom was a fantastic and creative seamstress.  Each Halloween she would put together the most glorious costumes for my sisters and me — and sometimes for herself and Dad, too.  When Mom was pregnant, she made herself a kangaroo costume. In second grade, I was a Christmas tree.  A couple years later, I was the organ grinder and my younger sister, Barb, was the monkey.  Seriously.

Fast forward 25 years, I would do my best to sew fabulous costumes for my daughter, Becca, too, beginning when she was only a year old.  But when Becca was in second grade, all she wanted was a $5 costume from Kmart!  All I could think was, what kind of a lousy mother would just spring the $5 for a cookie cutter costume from Kmart?  It was a conundrum, for sure.

So I shared that conundrum with Mom, in hopes she would understand the dilemma.  But she didn’t understand it at all — because to her way of thinking, the point was to make Becca happy.  And if Becca was happy with a Kmart costume, then so be it.

In other words — the outcome was far more important than the process.  A good lesson.

Many years later, and up until about 2001, Mom and I played golf in the mother-daughter golf tournament each summer. This particular golf tournament was an annual event which was won by the same 2-3 mother daughter pairs each year — because they were all good, competitive golfers.

I’m not that golfer.  I play against my own previous scores, but don’t really care about beating someone else.  I’m more about the fun, the fellowship, and enjoying a beautiful day.

However, undaunted, Mom and I would play our best.  If you won the tournament, there were some very nice prizes to be had.  And, if you won the tournament, you were put in charge of the tournament the following year.

So each year, before we teed off on the first hole, Mom would remind me that our goal was to come in… second.

The lesson?  That sometimes you win bigger by not being first.

It’s not easy losing a parent.  I’ve been learning that for many years through the fog of Alzheimer’s, and I’m learning even more about it now.  We’re fortunate that Dad is still with us – as sharp and vital as ever.

We’re at peace with losing Mom, even through our mourning.  Over time, I’m sure that the sadness and frustrations wreaked by Alzheimer’s will be fully replaced and obscured by the happier memories of her first 75 years.

I hope you and those you love will never have to suffer “the long good-bye” of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Rest in peace Mom.  I will always love you.

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10 thoughts on “Mom – Free of Her Alzheimer’s Prison”

  1. What a beautiful tribute to a special lady. No matter that it’s a blessing I know how very much you will all miss her. Betty’s beauty in every way shone through for many years–Alzheimers or not. She was a dear person and i will miss her every time I walk into the memory center and other times too. Hugs and you know, I pray, that you all have my very deepest sympathy

  2. Trisha, I often read your always-helpful and knowledgeable information. This blog is one that really teaches true life lessons. Your mom is at peace, and I am sorry for your loss. Unfortunately, I can identify with the loss of a parent, and I can tell you that even today, 13 years later, if my doorbell rang and it was my dad, we would pick up right where we left off…probably even better. And people gave me all kinds of “advice” after his passing (or some even seemed to evaporate)…the most famous line “time heals.” My take is a little different from the norm…I have found that as time went on my grief took its place tucked in “my pocket” that transformed into a never ending connection between heart-and-heart. When I think about my Dad there’s always that pinch that hurts, but moreover I am flushed with a lot of love that I find very motivating daily. I hope this is helpful to you.
    Sheryl Kurland
    Patient Advocates Of Orlando (FL)

  3. Hi Trisha:

    What a beautiful tribute to your Mom. She has such a presence – you can feel how amazing not only through your description but also by the gleam in her eyes. I can tell you shared a very special relationship with her.

    There aren’t words that can express what it’s like to lose someone gradually over time to a disease like Alzheimers but somehow you’ve captured a piece of her life by sharing these stories with us.

    Thank you for the privilege of giving us a slice of your life – and your Mom’s. I love how you’ve carried her energetic spirit into your own work helping patients and caregivers everywhere.

    It isn’t easy losing a parent – no ifs, ands or buts. I hope you can hold your memories close and feel how your Mom’s spirit is alive and well in you. May her memory be a blessing to you now and always.

  4. There is no greater tribute to your mother than to continue to work to improve the circumstances and empowerment of patients. Thank you for sharing your inspiration with us.

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Trisha Torrey
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