WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — My mother, Dougie Bohman, is 89-years-old and in a nursing home in hospice with Alzheimer's disease.
A cruel end is on the horizon for a woman of incredible intelligence, humor and accomplishment.
She was born, Douglas Anne Bohman in Canada, and she never did learn why she was given a boy’s name, but Johnny Cash's late 1960s hit, "A Boy Named Sue," was naturally one of her favorites.
She was Ivy League-educated at the University of Pennsylvania and worked up until she was 82, telling me and my brothers that her parents worked hard to put her through college and that retiring when she could continue to help people and society would be a dishonor to them.
She also served our hometown of Chatham, Massachusetts, as the chairwoman of the board of selectmen for 16 years.
As a parent, she was amazing. She valued intelligence and education, and when I lived at home, we would do crossword puzzles, and other games in the newspaper section head-to-head.
Later in life, she believed these puzzles would help stem the aging of the brain, but crosswords and Jumble are no match for Alzheimer's.
She was also an avid golfer, and once had a six handicap, and three club championships to her name.
She encouraged us to participate in sports and helped her oldest, least athletic son become an all-state baseball player in high school and play at the college level. She would play catch with me in the backyard, and make sure it was with a hardball, even at age 7.
In her 80s, she became increasingly forgetful of things like car keys and wallets. We had to get a doctor to revoke her driver's license after she would get lost when running errands.
My youngest brother took a year off from work to be a full-time caretaker, but as Alzheimer's advanced, even that became too much.
She had an uneven sleep schedule, increasingly could not recognize close friends, and eventually, she was sent to an assisted living facility that is proving very costly, sapping away the wealth she and my late father accumulated through a lifetime of hard work.
I visited her around Labor Day, and in a sense, I was saying goodbye. She was heavily sedated but seemed to recognize me and smiled, something the nurses say they don't remember her doing.
Alzheimer's is crueler to old age than any other ailment. I feel for the people who have it. The early stages have to be frightening for those who slowly lose touch. The rest of the progression of the disease is tough for the family caretakers.
Another heartbreak: Those who live amazing lives of joy and accomplishment find the last chapter like a bad ending to a promising novel or movie.