Merriam Webster defines waiting game as “a strategy in which one or more participants withhold action temporarily in the hope of having a favorable opportunity for more effective action later.” And while Alzheimer’s will never result in a “favorable opportunity for more effective action later,” nor is there strategy involved, as I sit with my mother in the afternoons, the term comes to mind. On some days, she’s awake and alert, fingers clutched around one of her stuffed animals as she mumbles syllables I don’t understand. But at least two days of the week, Mom is covered with a light blanket, racked out in her Geri chair, effectively unaware of all that goes on around her.
And I think: How much longer can this go on?
The answer is not clear, but it’s not a game now, is it?
The experts will tell you that the average life span for an Alzheimer’s patient is four to eight years postdiagnosis, but some patients live for twenty years. Twenty? And I can see it now—the seemingly never-ending days that roll one into another, when Mom does nothing but sleep, and we wait for the neurons that dictate her breathing to cease functioning.
It won’t be a game then either.
In the meantime, we wait. We hold hands, and we wait. We look at photos, and we wait. We listen to music, make phone calls, eat snacks, and laugh.
And, we wait.