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Should We Invite My Alzheimer’s-Stricken Mother to Our Son’s Upcoming Bar Mitzvah?

Dear Bintel Brief:

Our son’s bar mitzvah is rapidly approaching, and we still are not sure what to do. My mother, who lives in a far away state, has Alzheimer’s and it will be very discombobulating for her and her aide to travel to us. Moreover, my mom won’t remember the event even a few minutes after it has occurred. While she’s here, she will wonder where she is and what’s going on.

Yet every time we talk on the phone, she asks (several times), “How old is my grandson?” And when I tell her, “Twelve,” she immediately says, “Well, is there a bar mitzvah coming up? I hope I’m invited!” It’s very strange, since she was always anti-religion.

My question for you: Should we try to bring my mom out here anyway, knowing that she will be confused the whole time and require a lot of attention? And if we don’t bring her out, what do we tell her when she asks, “Didn’t he have a bar mitzvah?”


Jeffrey Zaslow replies:

Dear Confused,

Have you spoken to your son about this dilemma? It’s possible that he will provide a heartfelt and logical response.

I shared your letter with my daughter Eden, who recently celebrated her bat mitzvah. The answer was very clear to her. She said that unless your mom’s health leaves her physically unable to make the trip, then she should be welcomed. Some part of your mom yearns to be involved in the bar mitzvah, Eden said, because she keeps asking about it.

Eden pointed out that photos will be taken, and years from now, all of you will be glad to see your mom alive and smiling in those pictures.

Also, even if it is a challenge to look after your mom at the service and celebration, those who love her will likely do so graciously, especially on such a special day.

Eden’s answer was immediate and obvious to her. If your son feels the same way, have your mom attend. The day will come when you will be very grateful you made this decision.

Jeffrey Zaslow writes about life transitions as The Wall Street Journal’s “Moving On” columnist. Alongside the professor Randy Pausch, Zaslow wrote “The Last Lecture,” a best-selling book based on an uplifting lecture Pausch gave after having been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. The book has been on The New York Times’ Best-Sellers list for 47 weeks.

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