Melanie's story: ‘Mom's hands are reaching out for family, not understanding why they don’t visit.’

Melanie's mom was diagnosed with dementia six years ago. Known affectionately as 'Nini' by her grandchildren, Melanie's family have found it very painful to watch her dementia progress. Melanie has shared a beautiful tribute in writing to Nini with us titled 'Hands'.

Hands

Hands. The eyes may be the window to the soul, but hands hold the story of a person’s life. These beautiful hands belong to my mom. These are the hands that picked me up from the hospital as a newborn,  wrote out announcements - in perfect penmanship - announcing how proud she was to be a mom!

These hands were left hand dominant until she went to Catholic school. Forced to sit on her left hand, she became ambidextrous. Lots of people are, but how many can write with both hands at the same time - the right hand writing normal while the left hand wrote in mirror image, the same sentence forward and in reverse! 

Hands

These hands carried home two more daughters and then picked up a phone letting her know that her 29 year old husband had passed away. These hands folded in prayer at his casket, but then quickly took the hands of her daughters and dried their tears.

These talented hands had to provide a living. These hands could type 120 words a minute long before keyboards.

People used to stop in her office and just watch her type! This left hand eventually wore a new wedding band. She then welcomed her son and her life was complete.

These hands baked goods that made Betty Crocker’s desserts look like they were made in an easy-bake oven. These hands taught the neighbour kids how to sew. Easy for her because she could sew Barbie doll clothes, tiny zippers and all. 

These hands made quilts -  no sewing machine used! Beautiful quilts with tiny perfect stitches. One of those quilts covers her now in the senior residence where she now lives. The quilts were signed in that same perfect penmanship 'Made with love by Nini'.  These hands made recipe books for her children, included all her little tips, it is priceless.

'Don’t omit the onions!' The same hands rolled out dough for raviolis every Christmas. These hands had already baked dozens of perfect cookies - she shared with the neighbors, the nuns, the mailman.

These hands could play a piano like Rachmaninov, without a lesson! She rewrote Tommy Dorsey’s Boogie Woogie and I promise you her version was better! The same hands played the organ, filling our home with beautiful music. 

These hands belong to a true caregiver. They always reached out to help others, she never pointed to herself. These hands provided comfort to her children and to anyone who needed to be comforted. 

These hands could put on a pair of earrings, a dab of red lipstick and make her look like a model. We thought she was so much prettier than Miss Universe, because she was.

The same hands are now crippled with arthritis. They can’t hold a fork or spoon. But their story is there. I see her story in every wrinkle, every vein, every bent finger. She has held the hands of 4 children, 14 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren and 5 great-great-grandchildren. They call her Nini, a special name for such a special person.

These hands are now reaching out for her family, not understanding why they don’t visit.

Her dementia has protected her from hearing about Covid and the new way of the world we live in. It just makes it hard for her to understand why we can’t visit. 

I did get to see her at a doctor’s appointment. They wheeled her in and I wasn’t sure if she recognised me, but when I moved her next to me her hand reached out and covered mine and I knew. I felt the same peace and protection she always provided. 

When you see someone looking at you a little confused, remember that their eyes may recognise you but they might be unable to say your name. But if a hand reaches out and touches you, you will know that person loves you. Promise.

Hands. The story of a lifetime. A beautiful life. A beautiful story. A beautiful legacy she has created. Beautiful Mom, Auntie Ro, Nini, neighbor, friend. The lady with the beautiful hands.

About Melanie and her beloved mom

My mom adopted me and brought me home straight from the hospital when I was born. I think I should be in the Guinness Book of Records for the luckiest person in the world. I was adopted by a one-in-a-million mom.

Mom was diagnosed with dementia six years ago. She lived with us for four years and we had to make the agonising decision to place her in a care home as we were unable to physically provide all the loving care that she required. She is blessed with a wonderful staff of people who love her. Her home has not had any cases of coronavirus, and that in itself makes a statement about the care they provide for their residents. Peace of mind for us and excellent care for her. 

She was valedictorian of her class in high school. It is so painful to watch the progression of dementia in a person with such a brilliant mind. Little pieces being taken away each day. Her eyes look far away some days, but her hands continue to reach out for the family that she loves. I pray that she feels how much she is loved in a way that we always knew that she loved us.
 

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Writing and sharing a story about how you or a loved one has been affected by dementia can offer some relief for both writer and reader. Find out more about how to share your story.

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