My Mom vs. Dementia: Sadly, Dementia is Winning

November 11, 2023

From the time I was 6 until I was 14, we lived in a two-story house on a busy street in North Little Rock, Arkansas. I scored my own (very small) bedroom upstairs. It was directly above the baby grand piano, where my mom would spend hours in the evenings practicing and playing. She started college well after we were born, and her music major required that she perform a senior recital. One of the pieces she played repeatedly as she prepared for her recital was a Schubert piece with a distinctive and melodic bass line. That bass melody often rose up from below and seeped straight into my eardrums as I went to sleep. It never bothered me. In fact, it was soothing and comforting. Whenever I hear that Schubert piece, or sometimes when I just hum it on my own, I am flooded with memories of my mom and my family, and all of the carefree and love-filled days from that time in my life.

Eric Church sings one of my favorite songs, Springsteen, where the chorus has a line that rings very true for me:

Funny how a melody
Sounds like a memory

My life’s soundtrack has so many melodies that sound like memories in my life: Schubert, John Denver, the Eagles, Earth Wind and Fire, Willy Nelson, and the people who wrote the Thomas the Tank Engine theme song are just a few of the melody creators whose work elicits clear memories of specific moments in my life. I don’t understand why our senses trigger memories like this. In fact, I don’t really understand how memory works at all. 

And that’s why I’m writing today’s post. Because my wonderful Mom, the talented pianist, the multi-tasking super-mom who managed four children born within five years, the valedictorian of her high school class at age 18, and the summa cum laude graduate from college at age 37, is now suffering from a case of dementia that is crippling her ability to remember, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Until about five years ago, everything was pretty much fine. We worried a little about Mom. She lived on her own and did not socialize much other than going to church. She would garden but had no exercise routines. Whenever I came home, I would take walks with her and urge her to make that part of her daily routine. She never did. And she worried too much – about projects like arranging her gazillion photos and other projects, none of which really needed to be done. But she was energetic, she looked great (she still looks great!), and she remained the same loving, caring, silly, fun, and talented person she had been for her first 77 years. 

Just four years ago, she was out at our home in Malibu for Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful visit, and I did not know it would be her last. While she had a few memory lapses, she was a doting grandmother to her grandsons, she made the gravy for the turkey, and she took walks on the beach with us. Mom got to meet Ryan’s future wife, which, it turns out, was an incredibly special moment because she was unable to make it to last year’s wedding. And Ryan brought sheet music for Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera. In an impromptu, emotional, and powerful performance, Mom sight read the music and played piano while Ryan sang with his beautiful voice. We were all smiling and crying. I just rewatched the video of that performance, and I could not believe it was just four years ago, Once again, it made me smile and cry. That melody will always sound like a priceless memory.

From there, it’s been a rough decline to watch. I remember one night while I was visiting her about three years ago, she was driving us from my sister’s house to her house. It was a drive she had done hundreds of times. After she took two wrong turns, I asked her if she needed help. She responded that she did not remember where she was going or how to get there. 

She began repeating herself more and more. We learned that the worst thing you could say to her was that she had already told us something. It increased her anxiety and sent her into a tailspin. She quit going to her Bible study group, one of the few social groups she participated in, because they kept telling her she was repeating herself. She would forget to eat, and spend days getting nothing done at all. Doctors were slow to diagnose it as dementia or Altzheimer’s, but we knew.

Martha and Pat, my siblings who live in Little Rock, intensely felt the burden of caring for an ailing parent. They fielded dozens of worried phone calls from Mom, taking each one in stride, patiently calming her down and helping her remember whatever she had forgotten. We were all concerned that something terrible would happen to her with no one constantly looking after her. We moved her into a senior living facility with a moderate level of care. She hated leaving her house, but it was the right thing to do. We loved that she was in a place where she could enjoy social interactions. That was a good place for a couple of years, but then the dementia started eating away at her physical abilities, including her ability to walk. 

By 2022, she had lost an incredible amount of strength and balance, could not walk without a walker, and often had to use a wheelchair. She could no longer live independently at all. So, we moved her again, this time into a wonderful facility that has 24-hour care and a very low employee-to-resident ratio. I don’t see her moving again.

When I visited her last week, we decided to take her on a drive through Little Rock. We thought it best to use the wheelchair to get her to the car. When we wheeled it up to her, she asked us if she had ever used a wheelchair or a walker before. Every day is a new day for her.

Mom still has long term memories, though during this last trip, I saw those beginning to fade. Even so, she absolutely loved being with all four of her children. She smiled and laughed. She enjoyed our meals together. She was delighted by the drive and all of Little Rock’s fall-colored trees. She was amazed by my sister-in-law’s art gallery and wanted to buy everything. She felt true joy with every moment of our time together. We did too.

But I know that by the next day, if not the next hour, it was all gone. During each visit, we shared pictures with her of our adventures the previous day, and she had no recollection of those experiences. I know she loved that moment, as she loves her phone calls from her caring and very funny older brother, and as she loves other visits and FaceTime calls from her children. There’s no denying that these fleeting moments of joy exist for her, and there is power and solace in that.

I know I am not alone in this experience. I hear similar stories from so many of my friends with aging parents. One of my friends in our neighborhood just had to leave for several weeks to take care of her dementia-suffering father while her mother recoups from a fall. I recently attended a memorial service for my friend Seth’s mother, whose last years were dementia years. While in Little Rock, I visited my aunt, who is also suffering from extremely advanced dementia. I’m sorry for all of these people, and I’m sorry for all of us who at best, suffer as we watch it destroy our loved ones, and at worst, also feel the overwhelming burden of being full time caretakers. 

Some kind of dementia hits almost 35% of those over age 85. That is a massive number. Peter Attia describes the “four horsemen” that kill so many of us as we age: Cancer, Metabolic (Blood Sugar) Illnesses, Heart Disease, and Neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia. Of those four, we know the least about dementia. We can’t cure it, and we don’t know enough about how to slow or prevent it. Some people have a gene that makes them more susceptible to it. I have not found out if I have that gene, but I am going to act as if I do. While not enough is known about prevention, there is data to show that we can act in a way that, with or without that gene, may make us less susceptible to these neurodegenerative diseases. 

The preventative routines that I took to heart from Attia’s work are:

  • Physical Activity. Attia calls exercise “the most powerful longevity drug.” Critical exercise includes strength-building, moderate aerobic activity, and strenuous aerobic activity. 
  • Limiting Sugar Intake. We need to make sure our blood sugar levels are as healthy as they can be. I guess that’s why every year, when I get my physical, the first thing my doctor writes is, “Your blood sugar is great!” 
  • Mediterranean Diet – You all know it – whole grains, vegetables, fish and lean protein. 
  • High Quality Sleep. Researchers are piling on the stack of evidence that quality sleep is essential. The bad news: I am a lousy sleeper. I sleep soundly for four to six hours, then it is fitful, if at all, after that. Part of my bad sleep history is so many years in stressful jobs with long hours. Part of it has been believing that I do not need eight hours. I’m working on it.

Though Attia does not show them in his research, I have read of two additional elements of healthy living that I believe are critical:

  • Healthy social interactions. This is present in the Blue Zones research and in many other sources on longevity.
  • Challenging yourself intellectually. This means continuing to learn, create, and solve problems. These can be fixing something around the house, volunteering, hobbies like photography or mahjong, reading to become more of an expert on a topic, and even challenging yourself with the mental challenges presented on the pickleball court or the golf course.

These habits won’t keep us from getting dementia, but they will improve our chances. I’m in for that. 

While we can’t be certain of the future, here’s what I know. We all have today. As Seth said at his mom’s service, “The time is now to do what you want. Don’t wait.” There may have been a highly appropriate expletive between “Don’t” and “wait.” He’s right. Five years ago, my mom was living a great life. Now, I can’t say what she thinks. I wish I knew. I know that I hate the life she is living. Seth’s expletive would fit nicely between “I” and “hate.”

I know that I am not in control. I embrace the fact that I can make lifestyle choices that give me a better chance, and that I can do a much better job of taking care of myself. I am going to try to be a better sleeper. Whatever comes, I am committed to doing my best to cherish and make the most of every day that I have here. And we will see what cards turn up as I head into my last decades.

Our lives contain so many beautiful melodies we have heard throughout our lives: melodies created by our families, our friends, our passions, our loves, and the beauty that we have experienced each and every day. For all of us, may those melodies sound like memories for as many years as possible.

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I highly recommend that each of us read the Peter Attia book, Outlive. I wish I had read it 30 years ago. To that end, I will be giving it to both of my sons for Christmas this year. In this post, I have barely scratched the surface of all that he has to say. You can read my review here.

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  1. Thank you for sharing your story, and making your mom’s story real for me. I share in this story with you as I have been there with my own mom, though with a dementia that expressed itself in a different way. My mom passed just before Covid (brilliant!), but I truly feel her as much with me now as ever. I was privileged to have a very close relationship with my mom and I reflect often on all the gifts she gave me- both things to emulate and things not to, but mostly I reflect on the person she knew me to be, something I am continually discovering.
    I know how hard it is to watch someone seemingly disappear before your eyes, but she is there in full in your heart and always will be. Thank you again for sharing.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      What a beautiful line, “mostly I reflect on the person she knew me to be, something I am continually discovering.” We can be our own worst critics. I’m sure you’ve read the line about if we had a best friend talk to us the way we talk to ourselves, we would dump that friend in a heartbeat. My mom, and maybe yours, only saw the good and the potential in me. If we could be the person our moms think we are, we’d be unstoppable. That is worth continually discovering. Thank you for reading and for your very insightful comments.

      1. Wayne F Reel says:

        I went through this with my Dad in the mid-90’s, and now I’m going through this with Jan. I am accepting of what is, have learned a lot about Love Giving and do my best to enrich our time together.
        And, it is so difficult sometimes. This is not the ending I’d wanted for us.
        When I’m worn out, I just cry.

        I am sorry about your Mom, Mike. What a beautiful piece you’ve written.

        1. Mike Matthews says:

          Good to hear from you, Wayne. Sorry you are going through it for a second time. Damn. May you have the energy you need for caretaking, and the strength to do things for yourself as well.

  2. Stephen J Murphy says:

    Nothing like a good cry at 0700 on a Saturday morning. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your love for your mom. Music can take you back in a second. Like a July Saturday night. I went back to St. Louis to see my dad for what I knew would be the last time. My mom walked into the room and said, “Look Jim, Stephen is here to see you.” The reply was “Stephen who?” After about five minutes of attempting a conversation my dad’s eyes opened wide and he said, “Hey, it’s my main man.”
    Watching the people we love suffer with cognitive impairment is tough on the heart. I’m so sorry to read what your mom is going through. It does sound to me like you won the mom jackpot.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks, Murph. What a powerful moment. By being patient, you helped him to remember. These are great stories for all of us. Wishing you pleasant memories of your dad.

  3. Grant says:

    The “Sounds of Summer”. As I get older I seem to miss those good old days. Now, there are some things that I hear around me that remind me of those good old Sounds of Summer. I will hear a teenager pull up next to me at a stop sign with his windows down, blasting Rap music, BOOM BOOM from his magnificent sound machine. I will remember those S of S, playing hide and seek. “IT” would have their eyes closed counting to 500 by fives. When done they would shout out “Ready or Not, Here I Come”. After a while, if IT could not find everyone, they would shout out “Ollie Ollie Ollie Oxen, Free Free Free, and everyone would come running to home base. I might hear some loud music coming from behind me as I am driving. Soon a big tattooed guy on his colorful Harley Davidson motorcycle speeds by me with his big sound machine cranked way up. I would smile and remember the sound of the Good Humor Ice Cream truck with its happy song, or the Helms truck with its familiar TOOT TOOT, and that great smell of warm donuts. I might be at a restaurant with some friends and the music is so loud that is hard to hear. I might drift off and remember the tacotta of my old neighbor pushing his hand-powered lawn mower, or the Click Click Click of the playing card hitting the spokes of my brother’s new Schwinn bike. Nowadays the kids seem to like the sound of Loud Mufflers. As they go speeding through the traffic I often think about the sound of the Slap Slap Slap of the kid’s jump rope hitting the sidewalk, or the Ding Ding of their bike bells. These are all those great Sounds of Summer, of days gone by.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Spectacular melodic memories, Grant. Thank you. One of my favorite summer melodies is of you on the King’s River every summer, gathering all 100 of us after breakfast, and in a quiet, strong, confident, and unifying voice would say, “If you can hear me, clap once.” You know the rest. I have many of the same memories as you, and had not thought of them in a while. Thanks for remembering the music.

  4. RoseAnn says:

    Hi Mike, I am truly saddened that your Mom and you & your siblings as well as the rest of your families are having to experience this truly awful disease. I understand your pain. I will be keeping you all in my thoughts as you navigate through this difficult time. Hugs, my friend.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks, RoseAnn. I appreciate you.

  5. Birgitta Istock says:

    Beautiful and thought-provoking, as always. Thank you for all the feels. Now… I better get walking!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Yes – get to walking! You and I both! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  6. Connie Harrington says:


    The way you shared all this info on your darling mom in such a positive, natural way, reminded me immediately of when you first came to the District and a few of us went out to Tin Roof. Although we barely knew you and we were just celebrating getting one of my parents onto the school board hurray, we were all so surprised, grateful and taken aback when you shared about losing your second son in the boating accident. So painful, but you went about it in the most natural and positive way. That’s when we all fell in love w you! 💋

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Yes – I think that may have been on Sean’s birthday or something. It was a great day for us, and as you know, I was lucky to be on a team that allowed for personal sharing. It made us all stronger. Thanks for your comments and care.

  7. I think of your Mom and smile.
    You’ve shared how her memory gaps are widening, while mine is still in an acceptable range, I’m going to hold on to many great memories of Sue smiling, signing, celebrating, but mostly being a proud Mom.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks for remembering, Merlin. She loved you and your family. It has always been nice to know that no matter what you think of me, my mom remained proud. I look forward to the next time you and I share stories that the other is hearing again for the first time. Or something like that. Thanks, my friend.

  8. Melissa says:

    Mike, your words jumped off the page and grabbed me this morning as my father struggled with dementia for seven years prior to his passing. Perhaps we were some of the lucky ones, as although Dad could not remember whether he ate breakfast or not, he still knew my Mom and all three kids by name.
    It is an insidious disease that slowly robs the essence of a loved one. Thank you for sharing such a deeply personal beautiful and yet tragic story with us!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thank you, Melissa. I appreciate your story, and I’m happy this post jumped at you in a positive way. Like your Dad, my Mom still remembers all of us, and has no idea what she had, or whether she had breakfast. If I had a choice, I’d take the family memories. Though I do like breakfast. Thanks again.

  9. Marla Zaslansky says:

    Hi Mike,
    Yet another thought provoking, gut wrenching (this time) post. Thank you. Like many others, I too have “lost” my parents to dementia. And I use the word “lost” purposely” because I want to share my fathers perspective with you and question the word lost. My father, Larry, was a sweet, kind, generous, brilliant, loving and funny man. Sound familiar? I was definitely his “partner in crime”…loosing him to dementia was devastating for me…until he told me what it is like. I found that a shot of vitamin B12 would temporarily give him some moments of clarity. Two of those moments stand out and were profound.
    The first time I asked him if he knew who I was. His answer: “I don’t know your name but I know I love you.” The second time I asked him to tell me about his journey with dementia. He told me at first it was scary. Getting lost and loosing control was very frustrating and upsetting, He was angry. THEN he said he leaned into it and it was one of the best times of his life. Why? Because he carried no memories, no baggage, no stress, and each moment was new and often exciting because he was surrounded by his loved ones, nice people, and there are no re-runs on tv (ha). Then he went on to say “I live in the moment now, isn’t that what we all hope to do, work so hard to do all of our lives?” From then on I gave him a Milky Way bar everyday and enjoyed it as he experienced it for the “very first” time.
    G-d speed to your mother, you and your family.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Marla – That is an amazing response. Thank you so much for sharing. To be able to lean into a life that is totally about now seems like a spectacular response to a challenging situation. And to know that love continues without the memories attached, that is beyond powerful. Thank you, my friend.

  10. Mike Urbanek says:

    No surprise that you have lots of comments on this one. Like everyone else, I have a few stories involving my mom and my mother-in-law, so I know something of what you’re going through. You have my empathy.

    My mother-in-law’s dementia came with a bit of a twist. She had been atrophying from dry to wet macular degeneration before we started noticing the dementia. I can’t imagine a more cruel combination. So difficult to engage when you don’t know where you are and you can’t see, either. And it’s so hard to try new things.

    We got her a big (50″) screen TV so she could sit right in front of it to watch Oprah Winfrey. Of course she couldn’t operate it. It was my job go to her apartment and get her all set up. Every day.

    So I show up one day and her phone rings while I’m fiddling with the TV, and it’s my wife. Mom says “Excuse me, dear, but I can’t talk right now. The TV repairman is here”.

    For a second, I thought she was just having fun with me. But she wasn’t, God rest her soul. But I still think about this and chuckle almost every time I turn on the TV.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks for sharing, Mike. Yes – a number of us have been through it. You know that you making that TV work every day was a highlight for her. I’m sure the TV repairman feels the same way. (Ha!) Thanks again.

      1. Daniel Wren says:

        One of your most moving posts. My family has been spared from this terrible journey. Your description of watching the video of Thanksgiving just four years ago was gut wrenching to read. Watching that video must be an enormously bittersweet experience for you. Wishing and praying for peace for you and your family.

        1. Mike Matthews says:

          Thanks as always for reading, your comments, and your prayers.

  11. Rhonda Steinberg says:

    After having gone through this journey with my mother-in-law it’s clear why they call it the long good bye. It sounds like your wonderful memories from before this horrible illness took over will be the wonderful way to cherish your mom’s legacy.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks, Rhonda. As you can see from the comments, we are not alone. And I hate it. One of the concepts I read recently reminded the reader that you would never judge a long vacation by the traffic you are fighting in the last hour of your drive home. And we should not judge a life by the challenges at the end. Like you said, it’s the memories along the way that must be cherished.

  12. Just beautiful! Thank you!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thank you, Carrie!

  13. Dermot Stoker says:

    A very deep emotional impact your story delivered. I certainly remember the brief moments I had with your Mother, she is an absolute Saint. I have to place facial tissues on my next Costco run, I suppose it’s to be expected when most of us have suffered from a similar circumstance, these situations are very difficult to overcome. Many thanks Mike, lots of love to you and your Entire Family. D.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Pick up a few for me, my friend. Thanks for reading, for your comments, and for the kindness you extend not just to my family, but to all you encounter. You sir, are a difference maker.

  14. Laura Rosenthal says:

    Beautiful story and words Mike. I have only lovely memories of your mom from many years ago so I’ll hold on to those right now. My dad had dementia his last few years but always knew us and could recall some things. What you describe would break my heart. Sending lots of hugs to you all.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks, Laura. Those were good days when our boys occasionally got to be with each others’ grandparents. It felt like we were living in a small town. I loved hanging out in the kitchen with your parents, as well as with the Wisnicki’s parents. I think we all learned and laughed a lot during those interactions. My mom still remembers us too, and I hope that stays as long as possible. Thanks for the hugs.

  15. Betty Glass says:

    WOW! I’ve had my cry for the day, but it felt good. Not so sure how many tears were for you and your family, your mom, and how many were for myself; since I’m probably older than your mom! Dementia is a sobering problem! I have a friend who has the disease. I try to call her every day, and remind her of things she should know. If she doesn’t answer her phone, there is no need to leave a message – she doesn’t know how to pick them up. Sometimes I need to remind her of who her sons are, and who her grandchildren are. She was a bright, talented woman, but now it’s difficult to call her, because she is so negative and has not much patience with the family who is trying their best to care for her. We’ve been best friends since college.
    I’m trying to avoid all of this. I am doing all the things you mentioned in your advice.- playing bridge twice a week, reading a lot, learning mahjong with Jill, keeping up with people. I have even started teaching a class again once a week, and yes after reading your blog I went out and took my walk, even though my knee hurt.
    I , too, had a mom who thought I could do no wrong. I remember overhearing her once at a bridge game saying to the other moms there, “I don’t have to worry about that with Betty. She just wouldn’t do that.” I was just a little kid then running around the house, playing with my friends, while our moms played cards, but I never forgot it. That statement probably kept me out of trouble many times. I would hear those words in my head, resounding and resounding! I just didn’t want to let her down. Hope I didn’t too many times. Wish I could have been stronger in transferring that sentiment to my own two wonderful kids!
    God bless you, Mike, as you and the family continue to care for your mom, give her the best moments you can, and struggle with “leftovers.” You will be in my prayers as you continue this journey. My prayer for me is that God will take me before my family has to experience this disease with me. I am such a control freak, as most of us teachers are, but then I can’t control this, I guess.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks for all of these thoughts, Betty. Your prayer at the end is something I think about all the time. It may even be a future blog topic. But it’s a heavy one. You have always filled your days with activities and social opportunities. I enjoy watching all that you do, and I’m sure I don’t know but a fraction of it. Let’s both stay at it, and enjoy each day on the way.

  16. Dede Cravens says:

    Your mom is amazing . When my mom passed away I asked your mom to come play the piano at my mom’s celebration of life. She honored my request with grace and elegance. They had been friend for years sometimes closer than others as life ebbs and flows. Years later when my mom began her journey with dementia your mom would come to her living facility and play classical piano favorites for hours. She would always make sure that toward then end of the playing she would have my mom sit next to her and she would play an old time favorite “ on the wings of a Snow White dove” and they would sing it together as they had done in their younger days. She brought so much joy to so many people.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thank you, Dede. You know, my mom told me she would visit your mom, but she did not go into the details. I love that story from her care facility, and I’m glad it happened. And “On the Wings” is one of those melodies that sounds like a memory. It’s one of the reasons that Tender Mercies is my favorite sad movie. But I digress. Again. I know your mom was very important to mine. I’m happy they had each other.

  17. Kim Holz says:

    Hi Dr. Matthews! Your tribute to your mom is beautifully written and the memories you hold closely are precious. I am going through the same thing with my mother. We moved her close by into a senior apartment 7 years ago. Caring for her each day has really taken its toll on me, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It went from once a day, to twice, and finally to several times a day with a caregiver helping out a bit. Just two months ago, I made the difficult decision to move her to a board and care where she would have 24-hour care. She is very happy, thank goodness, and has adapted well to the change. Her emptiness breaks my heart and scares me for my future, as well. It is amazing how many of us are going through this same thing with the stress and anguish we feel as the children of parents suffering from this disease. Thank you sharing your story!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Hi Kim. Thanks for your thoughtful response and for your kind words. I am happy for you that you now have 24-hour support, and even happier to hear that your mom is adjusting well to the change. None of this is easy. And yes, I’m overwhelmed by the common themes in so many of these responses. I’ve said this a few times, but we are not alone.


    I sleep the same way you do. I’m a huge beliver in melatonin. As we age our bodies produce less of it. I take like 3 mg a night. It helps.
    What does taking melatonin do to your body?
    The hormone melatonin plays a role in the sleep-wake cycle. Natural levels of melatonin in the blood are highest at night. Some research suggests that melatonin supplements might be helpful in treating sleep disorders, such as delayed sleep phase. They also may provide some relief from insomnia and jet lag.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Hi Dan – Thanks for responding. Part of our lack of sleep is the job. I’m not sure how to make it more healthy, but it never really lets us turn ourselves off. I’ve tried Melatonin, and it seems to have the opposite effect on me. I am sleeping a little better since retiring, which makes sense. But I’d like to feel like I’m a normal sleeper.

  19. Susan Scheding says:

    Oh, Mike. I’m so sad about Sue’s decline. I have missed our Thanksgiving gravy-making discussions, more discussions on the family walks to the beach, and her description of her Dinner Plate Dahlias. She was so proud of those dahlias. I always thought I’d go visit her one day and see those flowers. Another example of regretting the things we don’t do in life more than the things we do…
    I am winging you and your siblings much love.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      I always feel the love that you wing this way, and I know my family does too. My mom considers you a close friend. We will try to FaceTime her during this Thanksgiving holiday. I think she will enjoy that. Don’t tell anyone, but I think I hit the mother-in-law jackpot too.

  20. Christie Reed says:

    Beautiful and heartbreaking! I worked with Ms Sue when she and I both worked for Neil, and I always adored your mom’s sweet smile and laugh! I lost my mom last year from complications attributed to Alzheimer’s and we are now navigating the same road with my mother-in-law. What you shared is so important, and you of course have shared it beautifully. Thank you!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Hi Christie. Thank you for sharing how you saw my mom. Sounds like you got it exactly right. I’m sorry for your loss, and it must be very difficult to be going down such a similar road with your mother-in-law. I wish you strength and grace in the years ahead, and for all of us, let’s do our best to enjoy each day.

  21. Mikke Pierson says:

    Clearly this blog post has connected with so many of us. As always, very well said, and said with such a loving and honest voice. Sending my love to you and your entire family.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks Mikke. I appreciate it.

  22. Bill McGarvey III says:

    Mike…well done my friend! Your touching story is a true story of life that many experience. Sad as it is and will be for many we can work on ourselves thru Blue Zone education and other venues to enhance our health!
    I am one who cherishes my easy 8 hour restful sleeping nights! I have found the tool that helps me accomplish this now is an important part of my many varied life’s health puzzle pieces. It was a sleep study that discovered my sleep apnea! The c-pap machine was a life changer for me.
    I only write this because it truly bothered me reading about Your sleep situation! It was/is part of my health regime. With the latest research on sleep……. I’m happy to know I have this segment of my health under control. (For now)
    Thanks Mike always for you insight….Have a pleasant Thanksgiving. You’re deserving!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks, Bill. I appreciate the suggestions you and others have given. While I am sleeping better, I’m not the 8-hour bliss guy that you are. I’ll keep all options open. You have a nice Thanksgiving as well.

  23. Bill Sampson says:


    That is a truly heart-wrenching story about your mom’s travails but nevertheless heart-warming with all your memories. “My mother was the only saint I’ve ever known” is doubtless not an accurate quote but a paraphrase and attributed to Lincoln. Whether or not accurate in any respect it is exactly how I have always felt about my Mom – a feeling you obviously exhibit about yours. I wish you the best with her in the time that remains.

    As for sleep, I saw a story a couple weeks ago, perhaps apocryphal, that said before the invention of the electric light bulb people got 9 hours of sleep per night and following that invention got 7 1/2. One of my own home remedies for sleeplessness is late fall or winter backpacking or camping. It’s dark a LONG time making it easier to get a lot of sleep. Your mileage may differ.

    Thanks again for the column.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks, Bill. Love the quote. What my aunt and my Mom put up with – 8 kids who let’s say, weren’t always the quietest or the best-behaved, makes both of them candidates for sainthood.

      There’s a lot I’ve read about long winter nights in medieval times, when of course there was no artificial light, and how people referred to a first sleep and a second sleep. There was a waking period in between, that could be spent lying quietly, or could be spent otherwise. That’s kind of how I sleep. I haven’t camped in a while, but I remember doing that in the tent. Kind of peaceful actually. You can check it out here.

      Thanks as always for reading and commenting.

  24. Ali Rabiei says:

    Thank you, Mike, for sharing this part of your life with us.

    As I read the post about your mom, all I could think of was, some fifteen years ago, when I went through the same situation with my grandmother. As I shared with you a while back, I was raised by my grandparents (I was truly very lucky for that). At age 87, when I was in the early years of my teaching career, my grandmother was diagnosed with dementia. She lived with it for another two years until her passing. It was a hard two years for all of us. Among my aunts and uncle, we had to secure a care taker to make sure she was okay, as she was suffering from a symptom known as am-pm reversal. Not all dementia patients deal with this, but she and all of us did. She thought that the day was night, and vice versa. She was always screaming and afraid of intruders in the evening, thereby keeping my grandfather up all night. That is where the night-time care taker came into play. But, then, we needed a care taker for the day, as well. It became so cost-prohibitive that my aunts, uncle, and myself took shifts. I took Tuesday and Saturday nights. Those were the most memorable nights of my life. I got to know my grandmother even more, in spite of the dementia. Sometimes, I would even go along with her dementia. The only meal she would really eat were In N Out burgers. One night, I got some for her, grandpa, and myself. She suddenly did not want to eat. She was upset because the “little boy,” whom she thought was sitting next to us did not have his own burger. I pretended to go back to In N Out, get a double-double, bring it back, give it to the “little boy,” and all was good. It was hard to watch the whole thing, but, at the same time, it showed the humanity that my grandmother had embodied all throughout her life, even with dementia.

    I send you and your mom my best, as you all navigate through this. It is tough, but though she may be unable to remember some of life’s most cherished moments, cherish every moment you have with her, as those, too, will be great memories that you will have of your mom for years to come.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      So good to hear from you, Ali. What a story you tell. I love that you found such heartwarming positivity in such demanding work. That does not surprise me about you, but I still love to hear it. Thanks for your big heart.

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