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Alzheimer’s took my mom, but her dignity and love shone to the end

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Alzheimer's took my mom, but her dignity and love shone to the end

There are a hundred things I could tell you about my late mother that are more important than the disease that caught her in its grip the last few years of her life.

I could tell you about her relationship with my older bother, who has autism, and her deep, lifelong friendship with him. 

I could tell you how she took her experience fighting the schools to educate and treat my brother decently and went into social work as a career, helping countless other disabled and mentally ill people. 

I could tell you about her accomplished painting, her love of cats or her civic involvement. 

After losing her last week, though, I want to share something about the worst, about the end, about the Alzheimer’s disease that took this vibrant woman, who made friends and plans wherever she went, and confined her to a wheelchair and rendered her nearly mute and inert. 

Because I’ve come to believe that this crushing disease doesn’t, during almost all its progression, achieve as complete a victory as it might seem. It takes away so much. The ability to live independently. The ability to talk. And in the end, the ability, or will, to eat. There are no heartening stories of Alzheimer’s survivors. 

But our personhood is so strong that the disease, even in its late stages, can’t fully extinguish the human personality. No, the spark is still there, flickering, very difficult to detect at times, but there. 

I acknowledge that some families have worse experiences than mine, wrenching though it was, and Alzheimer’s forces you constantly to ratchet your expectations downward. First, you’re glad of conversation, even if it doesn’t make much sense. Then, you’re glad of any words. Finally, you are glad of, well, anything. 

Still, there are little gems of surprises. Once, I was wheeling my mom from the cafeteria area in her nursing home, hoping to get her from Point A to Point B without incident, when she reached out and got a death grip on the chair of another resident. 

This other resident was a notably stately woman. “Hello, gorgeous!” said my Mom. Where did that come from?

Toward the end, when things were bleakest, my Mom would still shine through the shroud of the disease. If she talked, it was always incoherently, but I could see her making points the way she always had. She might chuckle softly at a mention of my brother. Even when I couldn’t get anything else out of her, she’d hum, to patriotic songs, to hymns, to “Ode to Joy.” 

No matter how bad it got, you’d see grace notes in the incredible love showered on her and others by the staff of the facility caring for her. Or another resident would do something amusing or touching. 

I remember an otherwise despairing visit, when another lady sat down randomly besides us. I said I liked the stuffed dog she had in a basket on her walker. She said he was a good boy, began to pet him and then kissed him a couple times lovingly on the snout. It was so sweet, I was moved to tears. 

The last time I visited my Mom, days before she took to her death bed, I badgered her, as I often did, to try to get a reaction out of her: “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?”

Sometimes she wouldn’t say anything. Sometimes you might notice her trying to reply. This time, she got out an unmistakable, “Yep.” 

I played the “1812 Overture” on my phone, loud. Again, to get a reaction, I swung my arms in exaggerated, mock conductor movements, especially toward the finale, with Tchaikovsky’s chimes ringing and the cannons firing in a crashing crescendo of victory and resolve. 

And right at the end, my Mom briefly raised and twisted her hand in a conductor motion of her own. 

Take that, you merciless, godawful disease. 

Twitter: @RichLowry

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Opinion

The MTA’s still failing to end massive overtime abuses

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The MTA's still failing to end massive overtime abuses

Despite service reductions amid the lockdowns, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s overtime bill barely dropped last year, with a whopping $1.1 billion, down just 17 percent from 2018’s record $1.38 billion.

The Empire Center, which first exposed the MTA’s suspiciously vast OT payouts two years ago, reports that 431 employees pulled at least $100,000 in overtime, with 667 collecting more in overtime than in regular pay.

In what’s likely the tip of the iceberg, the feds have indicted five Long Island Rail Road employees (most of them flagged by the Empire Center and/or The Post) on conspiracy charges for fraudulently raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars by abusing the transit’s “honor system.”

It took several lawsuits for the watchdog to get the MTA to make public the incriminating payroll data, and various MTA units still “have trouble” coughing it up each year.

MTA Chairman Pat Foye claims the agency is “addressing potential abuses as quickly and efficiently as possible,” but the linchpin anti-fraud fix, installing fingerprint timeclocks, went off the tracks during the pandemic. And the agency blew past its end-of-February deadline for a new timeline for reforms after the abrupt departure of Chief Operating Officer Mario Peloquin.

We’ve supported the MTA’s successful efforts to get major bailouts from the feds, but the agency needs to get serious about breaking the bad habits that let employees rob it blind.

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The $8T (and growing) Biden wants to spend on changing America forever

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The $8T (and growing) Biden wants to spend on changing America forever

Eight trillion dollars. That’s how much President Joe Biden has proposed in new spending — in just the 2½ months since taking office. It’s an absurd figure, equal to more than a third of America’s entire yearly economic output.

And it’s overwhelmingly meant to transform the nation — to empower and enrich Democratic special interests, lock in permanent Democratic control and impose radical left-wing ideas.

Biden’s latest hit: $1.52 trillion in discretionary spending. That follows $1.9 trillion for last month’s American Rescue Plan, $2.3 trillion for Part I of his infrastructure plan and another $2 trillion or so expected soon for Part II.

That mind-blowing $7.7 trillion total doesn’t even count another $3 trillion or so in entitlement spending and $300 billion in debt-service costs; add that in, and you’re talking about spending that’s more than half the nation’s $21 trillion output.

Where would all the cash go? Mostly to Democratic allies and left-wing fantasies: unions and their members, Democratic states facing budget gaps, government bureaucrats, Green New Deal wish-lists and Dem-friendly corporations.

The non-defense discretionary budget Biden released, for example, grows a whopping 16 percent, including a 41 percent bump for the Education Department. Title I funding for the nation’s schools (and teachers’ unions) alone would spike 121 percent. (Never mind that the left-center Brookings Institution finds “little evidence” that Title I funds are “effective.”)

Spending for the Departments of Labor, Commerce, Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development balloon at least 14 percent, up to 28 percent — music to the ears of government employees.

Biden’s $2.3 trillion “infrastructure” plan similarly shells out hundreds of billions to benefit labor groups and their members.

It calls for yet another expansion of Medicaid, for example, to fund caregivers for the elderly and people with disabilities. And it’s designed to promote above-market-rate union wages and mandatory union membership, as Biden also aims to neuter state right-to-work laws that let employees opt out of unions.

The goal: to balloon unions’ ranks — and the dues they collect. Groups like the Service Employees International Union, which represents health-care workers, will then use its riches, and the power that comes with them, to elect more left-wing Democrats.

The plans also steer hundreds of billions toward clean-energy programs via subsidies to utilities, electric-car makers and Green New Deal white elephants. Think Solyndra — the solar-panel company that got $535 million in Obama-era funding and then went belly up — on steroids.

Then there’s the $350 billion for state and local governments (i.e., fiscally reckless Dems, like Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio) in the $1.9 trillion “rescue” package Biden already rammed through.

And don’t think the money went for COVID or economic stimulus, as Dems pretend, since most of it’s to be spent down the road, not the next few months. Besides, the economy has been well on its way to recovery even without the new trillions — as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell have indicated.

No, every single push from this president is for a total transformation — a massive expansion of government, union power, Democratic control and Green New Deal boondoggles. All financed via trillions in debt and redistributive new taxes to please far-left socialist-leaning progressives. If Biden & Co. get their way, say goodbye to America as we once knew it.

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Opinion

Letters to the Editor — April 18, 2021

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Letters to the Editor — April 18, 2021

Kimmel’s joke flop
Maureen Callahan was spot-on with her article about the Hunter Biden and Jimmy Kimmel comedy routine (“The lowlife of the party,” April 10).

There should be no doubt in any open-minded American’s mind that Hunter Biden is the “Fredo” of the Biden family, and Kimmel is taking advantage of the opportunity to try to turn the debacle into a comedy act.

The serious criminal accusations against Hunter Biden, which become more difficult not to believe every time he opens his mouth, are not the least bit funny.

Kimmel’s exploitation of this pathetic individual shows that he is a bottom feeder who will do anything in the quest for laughs and TV ratings.

Richard L. Mills
Bardonia

Royal family fix
Condolences to the royal family on their loss. May Prince Philip’s soul now rest in eternal peace. He had a full, rich and rewarding life (“Duke’s Earth-first farewell,” April 13).

Meghan Markle and Archie will stay in California and Prince Harry will attend his grandfather’s funeral and also actively participate in the service.

This could prove to be Harry’s and the Royal Family’s gut-check moment. Hopefully, neither will pass up any opportunity to reconcile, as his 94-year-old grandmother surely isn’t getting any younger.

Regardless, this is, first and foremost, a family’s time to grieve and remember their loved one. May it not become a crude and tasteless media circus or fodder for the tabloids.

Vincent Ruggiero
Scottsdale, Ariz.

Killing tourism
Recently, a tourist was shot in Midtown (“A Plan for NY Revival: No Shooting Tourists,” Nicole Gelinas, PostOpinion, April 12).

It may become the final nail in the coffin for New York City.

With COVID becoming less of an issue, the city desperately needs a shot in the arm from tourism. But if shots are felt by tourists, the decline will accelerate.

The cops are terrified to do their job, and the businesses that desperately need an infusion of cash can only sit and hope. It’s a bleak picture already, but after one or two more incidents like this, the city can kiss tourism goodbye for a very long time.

John Fleming
Punta Gorda, Fla.

Reform’s victims
It’s understandable to put Rafael Mangual’s (“Suffer the Children,” PostOpinion, April 15) and Ed Mullins’ (“The Real ‘New Normal’ Is Criminality,” PostOpinion, April 15) opinions on the same page. They go hand in hand.

Laws have been changed because the criminal-justice system and law enforcement have been deemed inherently racist. And it has swept the country. Some say it’s more fair. What’s fair about more senseless deaths?

It’s known that in any city, residents want law enforcement so their kids can play outside without fear and people can go about their business safely.

Leadership has lost sight of its duty to protect the people first. The police are handcuffed and our children are being killed. Where’s the fairness there?

B. Tonuzi
Wanaque, NJ

Unmasked upside
Thank you, David Marcus, for once again putting my exact thoughts into words (“Mask Forever?” PostOpinion, April 14).

I, too, understood the reasons behind wearing face masks, but the “forever mask regime” is beyond troubling to me. Nothing gives me more joy than seeing a wide open smile from people of all walks of life.

That smile of kindness and recognition is so human, so uplifting. We cannot allow fear to keep us from this joy.

Jayne Lee
Rockaway

Want to weigh in on today’s stories? Send your thoughts (along with your full name and city of residence) to [email protected]. Letters are subject to editing for clarity, length, accuracy and style.

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