But she does a pretty good job of making me feel like she does. I believe she knows there is a connection. She keeps it very simple when she talks to me. Partly I think because she knows that she can’t quite remember but is still witty enough to know that she doesn’t want to make it any more confusing than it already is for her.
I think she is past the most scary part— realizing she is “losing her mind.” She knew something was happening. And at first I thought it was just my mom being dramatic. But looking back a few years, her behavior was strange. And soon it was clear that she was slipping away. That mostly showed up in her feeling scared and not wanting to be alone.
I remember in the fall of 2008, she said something very profound and sadly poetic. She said, “me and the night don’t get along.” I thought that was quite a lyric. My mother was as witty as they come. She wrote tons of poems and parodies of songs. Mostly for co-workers leaving for another job or for cast-mates at the end of a show she was in. Or for my sisters’ bosses or workmates. She would whip something up in an evening. She could do it all. Of course she had and raised nine kids — that says it all.
I don’t want to keep saying WAS because she still IS. She still has her one-liners. She is still sweet and very interested in what you are saying.
When I saw her last December at my sister Carol’s Christmas show at the fabled Footlight Club, she was so into the show. I enjoyed watching her as much as the show. If you didn’t know she had Alzheimer’s, you wouldn’t think it. She was very in the moment — happy to see my father introduce my sister, but also zinging him saying to herself, “he’s awful.” She watched each song— liking some and loving others. But then a few minutes after, I asked if she liked the show, and she answered, “what show, dear?” That kind of sums up where she is right now.
I am no expert and I am 3,000 miles away, but she is doing ok for someone at her stage of this disease. My mother was a force and could do so many things. Now, she is very slow. But through all this there is a bitter sweetness. I hear stories from my siblings about how sweet she is and the simple loving words she says to them. There is still a person in there. And she is alive and still working it out.
I think she still knows that she has some kind of disease, but she has moments of peace. Hopefully, with more funding and the hard work of all involved, we can find a cure so that Alzheimer’s will not affect generations to come. This disease affects the whole family. My mother is so fortunate to have the care she has, but so many are not as lucky.
I will be running the Hollywood Half Marathon on April 7, 2012, in her honor — and in honor of all those affected by Alzheimer’s — and to raise awareness and funds for the Alzheimer’s Association. If you can, please donate to my page at http://www.crowdrise.com/JoeyMcIntyre
Thank you for always supporting me in anyway you can— in your thoughts and prayers and deeds.
Joey McIntyre is a singer/songwriter who rose to fame as a member of New Kids on the Block selling over 80 million albums and countless sold-out shows worldwide. He continues to push boundaries with his music as a solo artist and has vast theatre and screen experience including appearing in Wicked on Broadway and as a season regular on Boston Public. Recently, Joey declared himself an Alzheimer’s Association Champion and is fighting to end Alzheimer’s on behalf of his mother who is living with the disease.