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My Family's Journey through Alzheimer's
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It's April, and light sparkles in the leaves of my mother's old magnolia tree. I pull my rented white Ford Fiesta over to the curb, yank the hand brake, and sit gazing at the sun-drenched bungalow. For eight years, Mother lived here on the campus of the Christian Care Center in Dallas. Beside the two-bedroom house, the patch of soil where she once planted basil and thyme is now covered in roses.

I am revisiting the several houses where she lived and dropping in on the doctors' offices where we sat in waiting rooms together. I have eaten black-eyed peas with chili peppers. I have ordered grits to remind me of the tastes we shared. I have caught up with her friends at lunch, stopped by the greenhouses she frequented, and walked in the parks she loved.

Everywhere in Dallas, memories of my mother swim back. I see her turning the corner in her neighborhood grocery store, walking in her black flats down the ruby carpet in her church, stuffing a chicken with onions and loading it into her oven.

Now she is gesturing toward a brilliant pink peony on the lawn of the Christian Care Center. "Did you know a peony can live for 50 years?" she says. "This was dead in February, and look! Here it is again."

I get out of my rented Ford and walk over to the peony. It is blooming wildly. It has outlived my mother, who has been gone for years. I am thinking about how much she, a national flower show judge, loved perennials. I suspect that perennials reminded her of the Resurrection. It wouldn't be quite accurate to say that she had faith in the fact that there is life after death. I don't think the alternative ever occurred to her.

I touch the silky blossom of the peony, which shatters brightly ...

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My Family's Journey through Alzheimer's
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July/August 2014

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