A few years after Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, she started to believe what her mind was telling her. A few Alzheimer's caregiver seminars had taught me not to question her imagination, so that made it easier for me to just listen and accept it when one summer day Mom said she was a fighter pilot in the Air Force.
We were at Mom's favorite diner. She was well liked there because she always kissed the manager and all the waiters, but I noticed Mom was not her happy self that day. She just wanted to go straight to our usual table and stare out the window, gazing up at the sky. It was a perfect blue-sky day, with cotton ball clouds.
"What are you thinking about, Mom?" I asked. That's when she told me she was once a fighter pilot in the Air Force and that one of her missions was to rescue all the children from the war. As Mom was saying this, tears rolled down her face, and she told me she had jumped from the plane to rescue the children, but she was not able to rescue them all, because she could only take as many as she could carry. She cried when she said she had to leave some children behind.
I looked at her and said, "Mom, you did the best you could; it was better to save some than not save any at all." I'm not sure she was listening; I could only hope it helped.
Then one day Mom told me she got a call from the military telling her she was going to receive the highest Medal of Honor for rescuing those children. For weeks Mom would tell me she got another call, and another.
I decided to buy her a medal and tell her the military had contacted me and was sending me her Medal of Honor to be presented to her on her upcoming birthday. My daughter said she wanted to make up a Certificate of Honor so she could give it to her grandmother with the Medal of Honor.
Mom was getting worse by the month now, and I had a feeling this might be the last birthday where she would be able to communicate very well. I knew I needed to make this birthday extra special, and the one thing Mom loved to do was dance. I decided to take Mom, Dad, my daughter, her husband and my partner to a Latin American restaurant that had a band.
When I told Mom where I was taking her for her birthday, she was so excited she told me she wanted to wear something red. My older sister, who is in the military and was away, sent her a beautiful red silk blouse, and I took Mom to the salon.
When we all got to the restaurant, Mom was so excited she was smiling from ear to ear. I ordered Mom her favorite drink, sangria, and as soon as the band began to play, my daughter took her to the dance floor for her first birthday dance. After that, Mom danced with me, with my partner and with anyone who wanted to dance with her. She was on a roll, having the time of her life.
Then it was time for the cake. We all stood up when it came, and my daughter read Mom the Certificate of Honor, and I presented her with the Medal of Honor. Everyone in the restaurant stood up and applauded, congratulating Mom. Mom was so surprised and so happy that she got up and kissed every single person in that restaurant.
It's been a year now, and Mom is unable to talk or walk on her own, but I am so thankful we took her dancing for her birthday and presented her with her Medal of Honor.
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