The Days of Wine and Roses

memories, photo album. 1950s familyI’m on my way to see my mom this weekend, and taking little with me except some old albums.

When I visit her in late summer, she seems so less of what she used to be. Because of dementia, she can’t remember what I told her five minutes earlier, like “your clean clothes are in the drawer” or “dinner is in 45 minutes.”

 Seconds after the conversation, my once bright, quick mom asks: “where are my clean socks?” and then “isn’t it time to walk down to the dining room?”

But when I direct mom to her floral comfy couch and open up the big battered black album, the one that sat in the bottom of her hope chest for decades, her dulled eyes brighten, and she sits up straighter. 1940s wedding, marriage, long-time love

We open the book and check out the black and white photos of her and my dad in the late ‘40s, including their wedding picture. A smile, a sigh as we peruse photos of dad in his uniform with his paratrooper buddies and mom with the guys’ girlfriends and wives.

“Oh my gosh, there’s Sally,” she declares, voice suddenly firm and strong. “Sally Andrews. She was so beautiful, and god she made me laugh. Her fiancé, Bill, adored her.” Mom pauses, and adds, “Sally never got over Bill. He died the last year of the war.”

Thanksgiving, 1960s meal, 1960s Thanksgiving, photo album

The Thanksgiving Dinner.

Then we move on to photos from the 1950s and 60s. My mom chuckles and states, “I remember that Thanksgiving. The turkey fell on the floor. I ‘rinsed’ it off with my dishtowel and never told a soul.”

1970s wedding, photo album

Mom and Dad dance into the ’70s.

More photos, more smiles and memories, until the sky darkens, and my mom’s mind meanders to places I can’t see and she can’t describe.

Tomorrow, after the seven-hour drive to her  assisted-living facility, I’ll show her the albums from my college years and the decade after.

Maybe mom will help me remember the names of those long-ago friends. And hopefully she’ll relive her days of wine and roses.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream

Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.  (Ernest Dowson -1867-1900). 

121 thoughts on “The Days of Wine and Roses

  1. My mom also enjoys looking at old pictures and I am amazed at how she remembers things so clearly from the past like names I have forgotten. It is sad that dementia takes away so much from these once vibrant individuals. Thankfully they retain some memories.

  2. I just completed reading “The Notebook” for the first time about two months ago and I can’t help but relate to the bittersweet recollection of memories that you share in your post, Pam. Time is ephemeral, but memories are indelible and perpetual. I have never been privileged to hear the beautiful and powerful poem at the completion of this post ~ thank you for sharing. May your wine cellar remain fully stocked and your garden flourish with many rose buds.

    • I think you may be the next ‘Nicholas Sparks,’ my blogging friend. And I say that as a true compliment. I’ll never forget taking an older friend-she was in her late 70s-to see the movie the notebook. She sobbed through the last half, and I felt so guilty. But at the end she thanked me profusely. 😳

      • Thank you, Pam ~ I can’t help but admit to smiling at your comment, every part of it 🙂 Ironically, I haven’t actually seen the movie yet. I may need to check it out from the library and stop by the grocery store for a box of tissues on the way home 😉

  3. What a poignant and bittersweet post, Pam. May your mom be blessed with happy memories while you visit. It’s wonderful that you understand and can relate to her with such love and empathy. We should all be so lucky to have such a relationship with our children.

  4. Hi Pam, I love this post as it reminds me of some of the best times I had with my father who had serious short term memory problems. His long term memory was excellent so he was able to tell me all about his youth, early working days, early married years, times when we were kids. They were great hours and I came to realise that it didn’t matter very much whether or not he remembered that he’d asked me only a few minutes before what the weather was like!
    Enjoy your visit and give your mother an Irish smile from me!

  5. Your post reminded me about my mother’s mental state during her last few months. She wasn’t diagnosed with dementia but she would go in and out of reality often reliving a scene from her youth. It was scary for me. It was only a few months prior to her death but I’ll never forget the pit in my stomach when it happened.

  6. We are living parallel lives in this universe called memory loss – you with your mom and me with my aunt. It’s lovely though how photos spark memories, a theme I’m be touching on too next week with Aunt Ruthie’s birthday celebration.

    I just LOVE your writing style, and so do many others it’s plain to see. 🙂

  7. This beautiful story about your mother brought back some poignant memories of my own. My grandmother and my father both suffered from dementia and short-term memory loss. Visits were definitely bittersweet but I learned so much about their early years, which they remembered very clearly. Going through albums was a delightful pastime, as was watching birds at the feeders, which often triggered memories of bird-watching adventures. Thanks for sharing – I loved reading about the turkey incident!!!

    • Thank you for remembering those times with me, Barbara. It really does help knowing that many of us have been through this, and just do what we can to be the best daughter we can be.. I love visualizing you all watching the birds at the birdfeeder.

  8. My heart tugs thinking of your Mom’s loss of the short term At the same time I smile ear to ear at the thought of her feeling energized by remembering the days of long ago. Wishing you both a warm and loving time together. Hugs and some extra strength from me to you. xo

    • I appreciate that support, Sue, and felt it this weekend. It was amazing how another photo album (this time from 15 years ago) brought out a happy expression from a confused elderly mom.

  9. Unfortunately, I can relate to your mother’s dementia since I’m heading there a bit too quickly for my liking :-\ There is nothing easy about watching our loved ones—and ourselves—aging. It’s not what God intended for us, but it’s the way things are. I’m just glad she’s able to remember and enjoy the things she can and you can share that with her 🙂

  10. Dearest Pam…what a sweet, lovely story!!! I remember your lively Mom so vividly…the day we had the
    lunch in Sausalito at the Chinese restaurant! Her laughter still rings in my ears!!!! She was always the epitome of a beautiful soul that I am privileged to have in my memories!!!! Thanks for this sharing…have a wonderful time travel with her!!! please give her a hug fro me….love you, pat

  11. Love, love, love your post today! Bittersweet memories and sharing with your mom. I know it is really difficult when they have dementia and can’t remember things recently. You are a good daughter to bring the albums and share the good things with her for you both… 🙂 ❤

  12. So sweet, Pam. This brought tears to my eyes. How wonderful that you bring her back to those wonderful, poignant, and humorous moments in her life. The Dowson quote is a perfect complement to your piece. ❤

        • Got back last night from a marathon visit to see my mom, and just saw your reblog now. THANK YOU, Diana. So many of us are struggling as we watch our parents age – it seems only fair and good that we share those struggles, and our love for the people who loved(and still love) us, through our words. I think I’m rationalizing out loud – this was a difficult post to write and post, but I think it’s connected with others who are in the same situation. xo

          • I think those posts from the heart that are so difficult to write are often the ones that resonate most profoundly with others. They tend to tune into the human experience of love and loss that we all will someday share. ❤

  13. Beautiful post about your mother. You look like your mother (the picture of her dancing with your father). I love how patient you are with her as you help her remember the joy in her life with the photo albums. That is so important. You awaken that joy and it will be in her. And it is something you can share, during the hardest of times.

  14. That story about the turkey reminds me of my mother, Pam – she told me a few years back that she had done the same thing one Christmas when we were kids xxx

    My mother-in-law has dementia and now one of my good friends has it as well. It’s a cruel disease and I’m sending you loads of love, strength and hugs xxxx

    • Thanks for the virtual support, Dianne. I know you know what it’s like (and it turns out, so do many of our blogger friends). This is a part of life – the ending before the beginning – where we all get kind of get closed-mouth, but really, we need to share our pain and love and discomfort.
      I love that you and I share a ‘fallen turkey’ story. 🙂

  15. What a great idea to bring the photo albums. I’ve heard it said that the long ago memories are the last to leave us, so you’re probably bringing your mom a lot of joy, and even if it’s only for short moments, it’s worth it.

  16. As a former nurses aide at a nursing home, I can relate so well to this post. I’ve heard so many memories, seen so many bits of stories–often from people who can’t remember to eat their supper. Thank you for sharing your mom with us.

    • Lucinda, I was in awe of the nursing staff who I met while visiting my mom this weekend – how do they come up with the reserves of patience and responsibility and humor needed for this job? My mom, and many others at her facility, get angry and confused and sad, and sometimes take that out on the staff. But for the most part, the nurses and aids were patient and kind and loving. Angels of mercy!

  17. When mom’s Alzheimer’s got too severe for us to keep her safe at home, we moved her to a nursing home. As she began to forget people, I put collages on the wall next to her bed of family members at different stages of life, hoping that might help her recognize us. Sometimes it seemed like it did, but probably just on one of her “good” days. Then I spent several years in a wheel chair and used the time to put together albums on each of our children and their families. Then continued with yearly collections. I told the children they could bring me different albums when I lose it. They just laughed and said, “We’ll just keep bringing the same one over and over. You won’t know the difference.” They are so sweet. 🙂

    • Ha Ha, Eileen, love your (and your kids’) sense of humor. And they’re probably right! I took a different album to my mom this past weekend (from the 1990s) and she moved away from her dementia into the past and a better time. It was so incredible to see her face soften and smile. So yes, we need to create our own family albums (like you, I’ve finally put together many from my own family life, but need to organize them better…). Who knows when MY kids will need to help me through my ending with these hardbound copies of our memories…?

    • And as my mom and I look at the photo albums together, Ann, I enjoy reliving those ‘good parts’ as well. I was thinking this week that for the most part, photo albums are happy places. We don’t take pictures when people are frowning – only when they are smiling! xo

  18. Pan, precious precious memories and your love and warmth towards your mother shines out. What a brilliant idea with the photo album and I can almost hear her joy at seeing her old friends, your father. The mind is amazing and a wonder – remembering small events from decades previously but then forgetting the simplest of tasks. I hope you both had a cosy time together with the other albums. Hugs to you both through these hard times, ❤️

  19. This is a beautiful post that shows the love you have for your mom. I know how difficult it was for you to share it. Even though my mom didn’t suffer from dementia or memory loss she would look at her old photo books almost daily. She loved to share them with her 3 year old great grand daughter who never got tired of looking at them. Have a safe trip my friend .

    • Hugs to you, Gerlinde. We both have ‘lost’ a most precious mom, although mine is still living. I see her return every once in a while when she looks through the photo albums of her life. It does give her peace, as it did your mom. I love the image of your mom sharing these photographic memories with her great-granddaughter. Beautiful.

  20. It is so sad to lose one you love to dementia, but lovely to regain some of the former self in memories refreshed through photographs. Take care, Pam. Best wishes as you navigate these difficult days.

  21. Such a painful part of life for many to bear Pamela. Those who know they’re starting to forget, those who feel the pain of waiting for a loved one never to come because they died years ago and thos family who sit by hoping for the parent they knew and loved to reappear if only for a while.
    I hope your Mom remembers all your friends from your albums and helps you both relive fond memories.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    • I think the sorrow of seeing an elderly relative/loved one reach a slow end to his/her life is many times harbored quietly and not expressed. But I find that so many have gone through this, it helps us to share the distress while also finding joy in the memories.

  22. Such a poignant post. I know many going though this with aging parents. Not easy. How wonderful though that your mom at least perks up at seeing the albums and old photographs. Great idea sharing those with her again….

    Peta

  23. Pingback: Sunday Blog Share: The Days of Wine and Roses | Myths of the Mirror

    • Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease that is getting more attention now. A good friend of mine has a close relative suffering from it, and she ‘walks for Alzheimer’s’ every other week it seems. Fundraising is so important to help pay for more research to eradicate the disease. Thanks much for your comment here.

    • Yes, I wrote The End before Wine and Roses but decided to not post it. Somehow, the universe had different ideas and posted them on the same day. Interesting… isn’t it? Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  24. Those days are forever gone but now and then there is something to remember and that is good. At least there are some bright spots when you visit. It is all so sad.

    I pray to God that my memory remains intact just as it did for both my parents.

    You have a really long drive. Would it be possible to move your mom to your area and those long drives would be a thing of the past?

    • Thanks so much for visiting me here and commenting. Yes, my brother and I are in the process of moving my mom to a place he’s researched that’s close to him. I’ll fly instead of take the long drives, and on the positive side, see more of my brother and his family. Here’s to memories, and retaining them. xo

  25. Pam, your beautiful face radiates beams of both your mother and father. 🙂
    I like the way you realize that trying to remind her of current times is hopeless, but bringing albums out will enhance positive feelings as well as helping you to firmly grasp her memories, so you may pass them on. 🙂 When I stay a week at my Mom’s senior living apt, I feel she has lost many marbles, while there I lose a few too. Priceless moments and treasured times, some don’t get the chance to enjoy their parents, sometimes not until nearly too late. Lovely post and such beautiful photographs of the both parents. ❤

    • So many here on blogland are living through similar nightmares as our parents age into dementia or just plain, ‘old age.’ Sorry to hear you are experiencing the same with your mom. Keep me posted. And make sure you keep up your photo albums!! I think it really helps to see our parents in their youth and middle-age – see how beautiful they were ,and ALIVE. xo

  26. I was lucky, Pam, in that my Mom was sharp right up until the end. I do have a friend whose Mom has dementia with sundowning, and she has recently found a place for her in a residential facility – she had to because her own health was being effected. This is a lovely piece and a real tribute to your Mom and you, too!

    • Thank you, Noelle. By the way, I’ve been thinking of you as I’m reading an excellent book called Mr. Emerson’s Wife. Lydia (Emerson) grew up in Plymouth and recounts the joys of living there up until her 30s (in the 1800s). Imagine you would like reading this fictional account. 🙂

      • Just saw this, Pam, How are you doing? I will definitely look up this book.
        I’m so glad that you can relate to your mother’s mind through the old pictures. Funny how the old memories stick long after recent events are gone. Enjoy your time with her – it’s so fleeting. I couldn’t tell you until know that your piece brought me tears…

        • My mom has bad days and good days. The good days lighten my heart so much, and I just pray that she can find some contentment in her dementia, something that’s been difficult for her. Which I understand! When the fight is still in your spirit, you fight back as hard as you can. She’s certainly told every day how much she is loved..
          Yes, I highly recommend Mr. Emerson’s Wife to you. Once you read it, I think you’ll understand why. xo

  27. Love the title to this post Pam. And so good of you to bring with you albums to share with your mom. It’s interesting to find how people suffering dementia can suddenly relate to a certain photo or time which brings them back to the moment. Beautiful post. 🙂

  28. Dementia is so tough, and you’re a good soul to spend time with your mom, especially during such a difficult time. Interesting how dementia works though, how the far past isn’t forgotten but the short-term memories are affected. I’ve heard that’s pretty common.

    Lovely post. xx

  29. So lovely that you take time to bring your mom a reprieve from her dementia, if only for a short while. For dementia patients to step back in time is grounding for them, even if they don’t remember it five minutes later.

      • It is so sad that this is so often the “reward” for a life well-lived. Why can’t things like this be reserved for those who have committed horrible acts? When my son passed away, I asked myself that question every day.

  30. I went through this with both of my parents. Thanks for your touching, and ongoing, story. It helps all of us who travel, or have traveled, this road.

    • It so helps those who are going through the process of watching our parents with dementia, to hear from others like you who have been through it and are out on the other side. I think the more we share this kind of ordeal with each other, the more we can ‘ be there’ for our loved ones with peace and understanding. Thanks so much for commenting here.

  31. So beautiful and so sad. i remember this time with my mother-in-law. Photos are great. One of the last areas of the brain affected is often the parts that enjoy music. If you put together a mix of songs from your Mum’s youth, you may find her memory, and enjoyment, extraordinary.

    • This is a great idea, Hilary! My brother and I brought her radio to her Memory Care facility, but she can’t figure out how to use it anymore. So when I visit her, I’ll just play from my phone. She used to dance to Barry Manilow. 🙂

  32. I’m so sorry to read that you are going through this period of loss with your mom. I remember it well and it’s painful, it’s funny, it’s heartwarming, it’s devastating. It’s wonderful that you are bringing her back to the years she remembers well as being a happy time ❤

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