Essex County Associate Regional Editor Jack Durschlag has always had a close relationship with his mother. This year, more than any previous year, he recognizes the importance of sharing this with Patch readers.
Every great moment in my life, my mother has always been there to stand behind and support me.
While growing up, she was the one who attended every holiday choir concert, listening to the same songs year after year at my elementary, middle and high school. She was the one who made sure I was there on time and had a clean shirt and the right pants and tie.
When it came time for my bar mitzvah, she was the one who agreed to let me wear that pink shirt and bowtie when everyone else told me not to.
When I wanted to go to a far off small ag and tech college more than five hours away from home in upstate New York and study journalism, she was the one who stood behind me and said, “If this is what you want to do, go do it.”
She was the first one to welcome my wife into the family and make her feel comfortable and the first one besides me to fall in love with her.
My mother and I have always been close over the years.
This Mother’s Day, my mother and I are still close, but its a little different. Mom is getting up there in years and the closeness and memories are harder for her to deal with now that Alzheimer’s disease has started to rob her of them.
These days she’s in a special memory loss unit at an assisted-living facility in New York. A visit with mom these days revolves around the same questions she asks over and over every few minutes, “How are (her long deceased) mom and dad doing?” “What day is today again?” “Did I forget your birthday?”
She doesn’t mean to ask these same questions. A warm smile and pat on the arm is usually all the reassurance she needs to move on.
Her short-term memory is slowly fading away. She has her good days — but her bad days are slowly overtaking them.
My soon-to-be 92-year-old father spends time with her, visiting from his room a floor below. She lights up when she sees him, but she also realizes things are different now in their 64-year marriage.
The changes are subtle. Mom now needs help feeding herself. It’s not the same to talk to her on the phone. Where there was once joy in the timbre of her voice to hear from her children or grandchildren, there’s the flat sound of joylessness.
I still have fond memories of growing up with her, laughing and teasing (and being teased by) her, enjoying her favorite sports—professional baseball and hockey—on TV. But those days are few and far between, replaced by an almost blank stare as she struggles to remember things, people and events.
So, Mother’s Day will be different this year, Mom, but I’ll always cherish the memories.