But I Already Have My Lipstick On:  Our story of dealing with Alzheimers

Chapter One

We began to notice the changes in Belle, my mother in law, soon after the death of her husband.  Jim’s death was sudden and unexpected at the age of 73.  Belle was 71 at the time and handled the difficult changes in her life with the same calm, efficient, sophisticated manner that people who knew her associated as her style.  Everyone marveled at how well she held it all together.

In the months after Jim’s passing, plans were made to move Belle from the country estate 10 miles from town she and Jim had shared for 10 years, with its large house, large yard, required maintenance and undesired expense, to a more suitable home in the city, which would be closer to us.  With the help of a close family friend that was also a real estate agent, her country home was sold and an appropriate new city home, appropriate both in price range and location was selected and purchased.   Although this move seemed hasty, occurring about 4 months after Jim’s death, Belle, who had already been weary of country life, was ready for the move and welcomed it.  Scott and I welcomed it as well, as most of the yard upkeep and other maintenance of any home Belle owned would fall to us now that Jim was gone.

The selected new home, which was smaller than the country home, needed a few alternations before the final move in to more fully meet Belle’s needs and wants.  My husband Scott took charge of coordinating the projects and during the Christmas season that year, his siblings, Chuck and Susan both of which lived in the area, Mike from East Texas and Larry from Wyoming, converged on the new home and along with moving Belle into her new home, completed the various building and decorating projects.  So much time was spent on the move and getting the projects completed during December of that year that Scott and I did not decorate the outside of our home for Christmas, which was something we did each year without fail.  But, progress on the projects went smoothly and Belle moved into her new home Christmas Day 1994.  The family pictures of that move in day, including one of the five siblings and their mother standing in front of the fireplace, capture the faces of a very tired family.  Although the siblings had a history of discord from time to time, no major flairs up occurred. 

The changes in Belle during this time frame, after the passing of her husband and a major move, both stress events, were not much to notice at first. When the subtle alterations in the details of her regularly recited stories, the stories we’d heard for years, were noticed, my husband and I, would raise an eyebrow and glance at each other from across the room whenever she was in the midst of a story that was now suddenly different.  We mentioned it to each other on a few occasions, found it curious, even joked about it, but the situation did not raise a red flag of any major problem, nor did it cause any type of undue concern.  We merely noted the changes and attributed them to the stress she must be experiencing.