Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I Was a Stranger

I have held off writing about this day. It shocked me it came so quickly and I don't think I really have absorbed how it felt.

Our trip to Asheville for the Fourth of July was interrupted by a stomach bug so I made the trip by myself since I needed to bring Dad a load to take to the beach for us.

That Sunday Dad and I took BB coffee like we always do. She was parked in the main auditorium listening to the Sunday Gospel singers. I don't like visiting her in there because she gets distracted by other people she recognizes and wants to scoot over to them. 

I walked over to her first and she looked up and with a blank look in her eyes said "I love you". She says this to everyone so at first I figured she was being polite and not being loud. Her typical response is to start smiling, then laughing and then crying from happiness when she sees me.

We wheeled her over to the corner and she saw Dad and her eyes lit up. She didn't take her eyes off of him. It began to occur to me that she did not know I was Katharine, her daughter. Her daughter she carried for 9 months (early baby). That she had an emergency C-section with because placental abruption. Who told her all of her crazy teenage secrets. Who she drove to ballet and tap every Saturday morning for 8 years. Who she screamed "Smoke em Smoltz" during my serve at my tennis matches. Who she snuck into summer camp and brought pizza to. Who she went to Lilith Fair with and shared underage margaritas.  

She didn't know me.

She kept looking at Dad and listening to him and taking sips (through a straw) of her Starbucks. I looked at Dad and under my breath and said "She doesn't know". And he said of course she does! BB, this is your daughter, this is Katharine, your little girl.

Nothing. She turned her gaze back to him. 

It was like I wasn't there.

He tried again, hopelessly looking for a reaction. BB, this is Kat, she came to see you, your little girl. You are her Mommy....

She looked back at my face, then my necklace, and went back to looking at him. 

I held it together because I didn't want to upset her. She didn't even look in my direction the rest of our visit.

Once we passed the double doors into the waiting room I broke down into sobs. Dad just held me and cried along with me. 

I was gone to her.

For those of you that will say, "but she knows who you are in her heart." That is nice. It really is. And I know when she dies she will get her memories back and I will be her daughter again. 

But on this day, I was a stranger. And I cannot begin to describe how that felt.

I came home and Ford overheard me talking to Max about it. The next day in the car he started crying and said Mommy, if you get Alzheimer's will you forget me? I don't want you to forget me!

I was speechless and tried to reassure him I wouldn't get ALZ. But that is a lie. I cannot guarantee that. There is no cure, no prevention, only promises of exercise and a healthy diet to try to keep this monster at bay.

Please donate here so that future generations of sons and daughters do not have to be strangers to their parents.


  1. I am sitting here reading this sobbing for you. I know what this feels like and how horrible and cruel this disease is. Thank you for sharing your pain with the world. I truly believe we must get our stories out for everyone to see and hear to raise awareness and funding needed to fight Alzheimer's. I am just so sorry you are having to go through this with your family. Even though we don't know each other I have read your blog for a long time and I think of you and your mother and pray for you often.

  2. Katharine, I have gone through this with both of my parents. The pain and loss is just excruciating. All I can do is send you a hug over the internet. Like you, I fear getting AD myself, and like you, I fear what it would do to my husband and children. My father died just this past week, and while I will miss him (his diminished self) terribly, I confess it's a relief that it's over. Thanks for sharing your story. It won't make others feel better but it will help them to feel less alone. Bless you.