I stand in the doorway of the bedroom, and gaze across at her as she sits in front of the mirror of her dressing table. I wonder what her eyes see as she stares bleakly ahead at her reflection. Does she see what I do, a face marked with brown age spots and deep grooves earned through years of hard work and family troubles, and eyes dulled to a pale grey? Or does she see the shadows of the past, the smooth creamy skin, the cornflower blue eyes, and the burnished golden mass of hair cascading down her back?
Her hair remains her crowning glory, though it is now the colour of shining stars, and cut shorter, more befitting a lady of her age.
Her eyes drop down from the mirror and she stares at the silver hairbrush she holds in her hand. She was given it by her father on her 21st Birthday, and has used it every day since, brushing her hair, rhythmically and firmly, counting out one hundred strokes morning and night. A routine never missed. Today is different somehow, I can sense it, I have had this feeling before, and each time she has slipped away from me just that little bit further.
She picks aimlessly at one of the silver hairs caught in the bristles. As I watch, she carefully places the brush back on the table, settles back in the chair, and stares hopelessly at her hands which have started to shake.
I cannot move, emotion is paralysing me, and I can feel the tears stinging my eyes. I swallow, and force myself to step forward into the room.
She continues to stare at her hands, she has no awareness that I am standing behind her, she is no longer present in the bedroom herself. I touch her gently on the shoulder and she raises her head. I swallow again, preparing myself for what she is about to say. She has tears tracking slowly down the lines on her cheeks, “I can’t…….” “I don’t…..” she stumbles trying to form the words that neither of us wants to hear.
I need to remain calm; I cannot let my emotions show and result in upsetting her more.
I take the brush from the dressing table, and gently start brushing her hair.
My feeling was right, this is another of those moments; another skill forever gone; she won’t be brushing her beautiful hair again.
“It’s ok mum, let me do it! Remember how I used to love doing your hair when you were getting ready to go out with Dad?”
I move round, and crouch down facing her, gently wiping her tears away I look into her eyes, searching...hoping ….
I see it, behind the fear, the panic, and the anger. I see that essence of my mother, and I know that whatever else Alzheimer’s takes away from her and will be forever gone, there will always be love.
(c) Hilary Taylor