Why did I find this so amusing?
Even when it got to the stage that my mother didn't remember who I was, she was teaching me the intracacies of the English language.
"That would be fine with Judy and I," I'd say.
She almost never hesitated with her response.
"You mean, Judy and me."
I would've thought that her son was more important than her son's grammar, but such are the mysteries of a disease-racked brain.
She was right, of course, about the grammar. And each time I would tell her that I only mess up like that when I talk. My writing, I promised, is more refined. I hope I wasn't lying to her.
At this moment, more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease. That number undoubtedly will grow for a couple of reasons: We're living longer, and baby boomers are just beginning to get to that ripe old age where dementia is a common issue. There are a lot of baby boomers.
Last week, I called Pat Englehart, who graciously shared the struggles of taking care of her dying husband. What she said, and what our experiences confirm, is that each case of Alzheimer's is unique.
Stanton Englehart and my mother were born in the same year. They both died from complications of Alzheimer's disease. And they died within a month of each other.
They didn't know each other, although I'm certain that my mother had a few opportunities to appreciate one of Mr. Englehart's paintings. Englehart was a well-known and well-loved artist and professor in Southwest Colorado.
My mom was, well, she didn't have those credentials, but that's no matter.
"It's a devastating disease," Mrs. Englehart said in a phone conversation Thursday. "It's heartbreaking for the caregivers and the families."
And La Plata County has few resources for affected families, said Sheila Casey, director of county senior services.
Long-term care options are limited, and there is no adult day care.
"Caregivers are some of the most stressed-out folks I've met," Casey said. "They give so much, and they're exhausted."
Pat Englehart kept an eye on Stanton for almost all the last four years of his life. At first, he laughed when he couldn't finish what he wanted to say. Later, he got frustrated. But she's thankful that, through it all, he never became abusive - a trait all too common in Alzheimer's victims.
"He was easy to handle," she said. "Sometimes, I think, there's a complete personality change. With Stanton, he was the same sweet man he always was."
Marie Peel spent her final four years in assisted living and nursing homes.
Just before that, she would forget about the peas she was cooking, or that her husband had died.
Later, she'd ask how she was going to get home, and you'd have to attempt to explain that, sorry, but this is where you live now.
She was not a big woman, but my mother bruised a couple of people along the way and made such a fuss that one facility had to ask for outside, expert help.
Those who can't cope with keeping an adult who has full-blown dementia at home are likely to suffer some feelings of guilt. Mrs. Englehart emphasized that "not everyone can do it." Her sister's husband, for instance, would get up in the middle of the night and go places. Her sister was afraid to sleep. That didn't work so well.
At times it was tough for Mrs. Englehart. "When I look back at it, I'm not sure how I did it." But she would do it again. Even a task that makes you cringe, like changing an adult's Depends, is bearable.
"You think it's going to be horrible. It isn't. It's just a process. You just do it," she said. "It's part of something you do to take care of somebody you care about."
Stanton Englehart died in his own bed, in his wife's arms, Pat Englehart said, still emotional at the thought. "Sometimes you put people out of sight. I think you miss something really important. I think you miss something beautiful."
It's easy to take life for granted. As one of my favorite bands says, in a line I find both humorous and painfully poignant, "We're only immortal for a limited time." I vow to never again take my health, or my ability to think - however limited it might be, even at my best - for granted.
During my mom's final year or so, I purposely would mess up my grammar, hoping she'd come up with the classic response. She almost always did. I was amused.
The last time or two, when she really was doing little more than babbling, she failed the test.
I suppose that something of her remained in that body, but I knew at that point I'd said my final goodbye.
The official record will show that she died May 11, 2009. It's ironic that her death allows us to once again recall her in the way we wish. I can envision the Marie Peel who loved to travel, loved to read, loved to cook.
I'm free to remember the mother I knew.
I hope she's free, too.
John Peel writes a weekly human-interest column.