A Holiday Stroke

My mother and I have spent hours making ornaments, coloring holiday pictures, and decorating gingerbread people during her two weeks in the rehabilitation center. But does that mother-daughter time count if she doesn’t remember it?

Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons
ENGAGE
Published in
7 min readDec 30, 2023

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My mother is recovering physically from the stroke she suffered the first week of December. However, the overnight acceleration of her Alzheimer’s, going from the laughable repetition of the same stories to the inability to remember if she ate breakfast or received the shower I requested from the night nurse, has devastated my family.

“I am Kelly.”

I found myself repeating these words one afternoon as we drew near to the dreaded hour of 4:00 pm when all reality goes out the window.

The third time I repeated my name — assuring my mother that her younger daughter stood before her and hadn’t come and left earlier in the day — I summoned tears instead of Beetlejuice and had to escape outside to bawl on the phone with a friend.

One of the male nurses nicknamed me “good daughter” because I visited daily, often with activities in tow for my mother and me to do after her therapy sessions or on the weekends when there wasn’t much going on.

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Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons
ENGAGE
Writer for

Writer, educator, and producer of No, YOU Tell It! (noyoutellit.com) Stalk my Insta adventures @KJ_Fitzsimmons @noyoutellit