When Skies are Gray
“You are my sunshine
My only Sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are grey
You never know dear
How much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away.”
The above are lyrics to a song titled, You Are My Sunshine. It was first recorded in 1939.
Growing up, I frequently heard my mom and dad sing that song to each other. It was like their theme song. Often times my mother would sing the melody, while my father sang harmony. As a kid, hearing my parents sing that corny little song usually generated an exasperated sigh or an eye roll. But that never stopped them. I was not their audience. They weren’t performing for me. It was their musical version of a love note.
The above lyrics are from the chorus of the song. I don’t recall ever hearing my parents sing the verses. Just the chorus. The verses deal with a person’s concern that the one they love will leave them for someone else. Thankfully, I never had to worry about either of my parents taking away the other’s sunshine.
And now they are both gone.
My father passed away three years ago, at which time my mother’s Alzheimer’s disease became very apparent. At that time, I don’t know if my mom even realized how grey her skies were. I don’t know if she even noticed the absence of sunshine.
Last week, my mother lost her battle with Alzheimer’s.
If only I’d…
We find ourselves saying this when we regret not doing something, or saying something until the last opportunity to do so is in our rear view mirror.
If only I’d recorded them singing this song to each other while they were both alive. I probably would have played it a hundred times in the last few days. Click play. Grab a tissue. Click play. Grab another tissue.
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the cruelest diseases for both the person suffering from it, and those people closest to them. If any of you are dealing with a loved one suffering from this disease, my heart goes out to you. I’d like to give you a few words of advice and encouragement.
Learn all you can about this disease. Become an expert. Read Books. Watch Videos. Talk to others who are going through the same struggles you are. Be a good listener. Share your shoulders, because there will be times you will need to borrow someone else’s.
There is a pre-Alzheimer’s person and an Alzheimer’s person. In many ways they both appear to be the same person. But as the disease takes the Alzheimer’s person into the later stages, guard your memory of the pre-Alzheimer’s person. Because those are the memories that you will need to lean on to help get you through this.
There are things that a person with Alzheimer’s will either say or do, that will either make you laugh or cry. Choose to laugh at that moment (and cry later).
Some well-meaning friends, acquaintances, and even people in the medical field will use the term, “Journey” to describe what your loved one is going through. That analogy never brought me much comfort. I watched Lord of the Rings. Frodo Baggins went on a journey.
When a person whom you love dies from this horrible disease, you will feel relieved because they are no longer suffering. Then out of nowhere, guilt will show up unannounced and uninvited. It’s going to say some hurtful things to you. Question your feelings. Question your love. Don’t buy what it’s trying to sell. Slam the door shut.
I’ll be honest with all of you.I am still at war with #5. Every time I try to slam the door, Guilt sticks its size 18 foot in my doorway. I’m told it’s just part of the grieving process, and that one day, guilt will move on to block someone else’s doorway. I hope that is the case.
As I mourn the loss of my mother, I am reminded of the old adage that said, “Mothers are nurturers, and fathers are providers.” These types of generalities tend to spin some people up.In many families of my generation, that adage was broadly accurate. Growing up, it certainly was in my family. The lines were blurred a little, but if I had a hurt, whether physical or emotional, I turned to my mom for comfort every time.
Depending on which “authoritative” website you click on, it is estimated that a person has 20,000 – 25,000 genes taking up space in their body. There are Protein genes, Hydrolyses genes, Receptor genes, Enzyme Modulator genes, just to name a few. A mother has 20,001 – 25,001 genes. That additional Mom gene (not to be confused with Mom jeans) is the Nurturer gene. You won’t find it listed on any Scientific Gene Coding Sequence diagram. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that it’s there.
A person enters life and leaves life with the same genes. This explains why even after you move out, get married, buy a house, have kids, and find your first ear hair, your mom is still nurturing you. It’s not her fault. It’s that extra gene she’s walking around with.
If only I could go back in time and tell my mom how much I appreciated that extra gene.