Mom was digging in her purse for a hairbrush as I drove her down the highway to a friend’s party. Always fastidious about her appearance, she didn’t want a single hair out of place before she arrived. But as she rummaged through the black purse with the double leather straps, she came up empty-handed.
“I can’t seem to find it,” she said, looking bewildered.
Then I asked her for a stick of gum. I could always count on bumming some Juicy Fruit from her. She rummaged through her purse for a few moments, then suddenly stopped and looked at me earnestly.
“I just know there should be some gum in here,” she said. But none turned up.
The contents of mom’s purse started to dwindle following her diagnosis.
Eyeliner, rouge and the rest of her makeup were now stored in the bathroom closet at home. Dad was in charge of mom’s appearance, and dutifully made her up for church or before a doctor’s appointment. The purse had no lipstick for the quick touch-ups mom always loved to do before a social engagement.
She had always carried tissues in her purse to dab away excess make-up or to dry a tear during a sad movie. No longer. I wondered what could be left. With mom’s permission, I peeked inside to find the solitary item, her billfold.
Once, it held family photos, her library card, a department store charge card and change for the pay phone and parking meter and candy for us kids. But now, in the little plastic window where the driver’s license would have been located, was a handwritten note from dad:
“My name is Frances Isler Cooper. I have Alzheimer’s. If found, please call Harry Cooper at 282-6067.”
Ron is author of “Fran’s Song: My Mother’s Triumph over Alzheimer’s.”