My mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's though I don't agree. I prefer to think it is dementia, because I can have lovely conversations with my mother several times a week, and upon hearing my voice she immediately recognizes who it is and greets me happily. I don't want anyone writing me long argumentative remarks to the contrary. It is simply my opinion and really has no bearings to what I am going to relate in a few minutes.
Once I saw a documentary on Alzheimer's/Dementia patients who resided in a nursing home where the staff was committed to increasing the patients happiness level by including high quality high context materials and activities for their patients. Some of these activities actually helped the patients increase their cognitive abilities or kept them from further decline, not to mention it improved their quality of life. Adding color and activities helped patients not to lose further memory and contact with reality.
Since I am not in Puerto Rico, my visits are mostly by phone, so whenever I talk to my mom, I try to keep the conversations about things she enjoys and delve into those topics. Sometimes we talk about Naranjito and family who has long been departed and share pleasant memories about things she did there or what nice things I remember as a child such as visiting her cousin's house down the steep slope a quarter of a mile down the road close to the river or walking to El Salto, the natural pool tucked away behind tio Arturo's house. We might talk about the vegetables and plants surrounding the house where she grew up. Plants like platanos, guineos, chinas valencias, the best juicy grapefruits dark green to ripe yellow, or even rice and tobacco. The soil is still fertile.
She might mention La Vega, La Vega honda, or La Laja, or how she would go racing up a hill with her two lively brothers, Angel and Victor, right after lunch, to see that huge mango tree outstretched on the top of the hill or the ocean. This ocean in which she loved swimming. So contrary to many Puertorriqueños in the past who wouldn't venture into the water exclaiming, "El tiburon que me vaya a comer tiene que salir de la ducha." Roughly translated means that the shark that is going to eat me has to come through the shower head meaning that they were going to stay out of the water. No, my mother swam like a fish.
But today, I was telling her a story and she loved it. I've taken a liking to a series titled, "Wind at my Back," which is filmed in Canada and portrays life there in the late 1930's and early 1940's. Though it takes place in the forties in Canada, my mother is very familiar with that era, when she was young, beautiful, healthy, and fighting to survive like many Canadians, Americans, and Puerto Ricans during the Great Depression. My mother has always been a survivor and she was touched by the story line which depicts a time of which she is keenly aware. I was so surprised by how she was following along as I was telling her the stories. Unfortunately I had had a long day at work and my throat was sore, but I promised her that each time I call I will tell her a different story from the series. She was so excited. Just like we tell stories to children, she wanted to be told a story. Believe it or not, I am looking forward to this time together to tell her some stories that will inspire and affirm her since she has experienced many of these hardships herself.
There might be some lessons there for me, I am sure.