November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. To acknowledge how challenging caregiving can be, we have a guest blogger joining us for the next two weeks. Dominic Belmonte, Former President and CEO, Golden Apple Foundation opens up about his own mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s in a four-part series.
The Accompany | Part 4
By, Dominic Belmonte, Former President and CEO, Golden Apple Foundation
6. The leaving takes place slowly. Visits in which my mother and I would sit and talk for ninety minutes became fifteen minutes. She stared at me, then stared off towards that gathering place. I would try to entertain her by playing through You-Tube on my phone the Italian peasant country songs my father used to blast on reel-to-reel tape with the speakers pointed out the window so the neighborhood would know Italians lived here. Jimmy Roselli. Carlo Buti. Sergio Franchi (who my grandmother famously referred to as “Surgical” Franchi—and so his name remains in my family). Simple Italian lyrics. (Years later I did the same thing in college, blaring out Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin—announcing a different ethos).
In “Mala Femmina” https://lyricstranslate.com/en/malafemmena-foul-woman.html the pain of betrayal is evoked:
I love you so much and I hate you,
I can’t forget you.
I still love you so much,
but you don’t know why.
Because the one and only love
for me has always been you.
And you, for a whim,
you destroyed everything, oh darling.
But God won’t forgive you
for what you’ve done to me.
I twist the words around as my anguish to God for what had been done to this lovely, loving woman.
Like many endings, like my father’s, I was not there. Whatever appointed hour or decision made occurred in my absence.
Thus ended three years of worry, planning, stress and deciding. I took over my mother’s bills, learned on-line banking, kept close track of her money to afford the $7500 monthly fee for dinners made on her behalf, medications given, hair appointments made, religious visits, kindly and weird singers making bad jokes and singing nostalgic songs. My mother did not go bankrupt, because we sold her house.
In getting it ready for emptying I found surprises: money hidden between pages of books, pictures my father took of topless Philippine women during his service on Leyte in WWII. My nephew discovered slides my father, who operated a photography studio on LsSalle Street after the war, took of my mother in lingerie. In lingerie. My mother, who professed to undressing in the dark each night at bedtime. Mysteries and revelations. We all gather them for our children to later discover.
The songwriter John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats writes and sings with love and emotion about the passing of his mother in “Matthew 25:21” and is worth listening to, right now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFpQQM1pfUc . I used two lines from this song for the cover of my mother’s funeral book:
“And you were a presence full of life upon this earth,
And I am a witness to your life and to its worth.”
The essence of the accompany: witnessing.
This concludes our 4 part guest blogger series from Dominic Belmonte
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