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My Mother, Alzheimer's, Caregiving, Bob's Burgers and Me

Mom, Sandy Tubman, me, my brother Andy and our dad, Lou Tubman.

November was both National Family Caregivers Month and Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. As I was a caregiver for my mother, Sandra, who had Alzheimer’s, my original goal (as prompted by SingFit’s social media team) was to offer what “tips” I could for other caregivers. Yet all month long I avoided putting the proverbial pen to paper.

My mom, who most people called Sandy, was a laugher, chatty, curious and liked a good party. In spite of a full-time career as a legal secretary, she always had time for her children and any other kid (or adult) who needed an ear to listen or a shoulder to lean on, all attached to the warmest of hearts.

SingFit's Co-Founder & CCO, Andy Tubman, with mom, Sandy.

A friend from high school recently told me that as a teenager she’d never met another adult who was as interested in what she had to say as my mom. Think Linda Belcher from the TV show Bob’s Burgers and you will find my mom’s essence; a little flighty maybe, not the best housekeeper certainly, asked for foot rubs more often than a teen daughter might have liked, but overflowing with love in a way that, to me, defines what it means to be a truly great mother.

That isn’t to say my mom didn’t face major challenges in her life, including being a caregiver for my grandmother, Jean, who had Alzheimer’s (one form of dementia) in the 1970s, when the diseases were even less understood, all while being married to a “crazy inventor” and raising two small children.

I know thinking about my grandmother’s dementia tormented my mother, so the very last thing mom would want for me is to dwell on the memories of her during the late stages of her disease, when she was also suffering from cancer. Yet for years after her passing, mom, who was terribly confused, riddled with anxiety, in massive pain and sometimes uncharacteristically mean (very sweet people often turn testy with dementia and vice versa) dominated my mind until one day, something switched.

Though I cannot pinpoint when or why, in the six years since she passed, those devastating images of mom started to fade and were replaced with memories of her excitement such as when I agreed to a marathon game of Boggle, or the way she would flick her hand and tell me “I was better than all of them” when I would vent about a challenge at work. I thought of her unbridled enthusiasm for going out to hear my brother play music, the look of sheer joy on her face as we roadtripped together across the southwest to (successfully) track down a long-lost friend or simply the sound of her unabashed laugh. Most of all though, when I felt down or frustrated, I started to once again feel her love, the kind of love that feels like a warm blanket pulled over you on a chilly night by someone who, deservedly or not, thinks you hung the moon.

This post is late because pulling back that blanket seemed risky, like I wouldn’t be able to find it again if I delved back into what was undoubtedly the most difficult time of my life. But through the encouragement of others, I’ve come to realize that perhaps the greatest “tip” I can give to anyone struggling through the slings, arrows and outrageous heartbreaks of caregiving is this; if you’re as lucky as I, maybe not soon, but one day, the harsh, hard memories of feeling that nothing you can do to help is ever good enough will be burnished down to reveal the happy ones underneath. The person you loved will come back to you as bright and delightfully as my mom has to me. And I can say, unequivocally, that’s what mom would have wanted for you too.

Best Wishes,

Rachel Francine

Co-Founder & CEO of Musical Health Technologies


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