February 28, 2016
I was walking out of my house to my car today and a woman talking a walk called to me, “Excuse me, I haven’t seen Elaine in a long time, is she alright?” I had never seen this woman before so I was surprised she was asking after my Mom. She was taking a leisurely walk and so I could tell she lives in the neighborhood. As we conversed and I explained what was going on with my Mom, she seemed genuinely upset. Through our conversation she told me she graduated High School with my Mom and whenever they saw each other (often as my Mom was taking a walk) they would talk, sometimes for hours. It was clear that she knew my Mom well.
After we spoke, I wondered how many other people were missing my Mom. People who I don’t know about but she came across often. A cashier at a local supermarket, her old work friends, other church goers at the 7am mass. My mother always was a shy person who did not feel comfortable in group social situations. She wouldn’t join a pottery class on her own or play cards with strangers, her relationships were more organic. A smile and a wave to someone she went to school with, a nice word to the gas attendant, a laugh with a fast food employee.
I think people often just think about their relationships with their relative who has Alzheimer’s and what they are missing. But each person in the world affects more than their family members. Other peripheral people who are part of my Mom’s routines have missed her. They have wondered why she doesn’t buy her morning coffee from them or at another store pickup the newspaper. Most don’t even know her name, they just know she has not been around. Its impossible for me to know how many people are missing my Mom. Today I was taught that there are people I don’t even know about that do.