Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Losing my mother one precious memory at a time.

Casting light on the darker moments.
The past year has been one of a calculated effort to connect with my mother as she slips into dementia.  Two years ago she was a vibrant business woman, respected and successful.  I left a message on her phone each Wednesday night, my "Wednesday Love Call," and then I would call on the only day she wasn't at work, Sunday, and we would chat about our varied experiences that week.

When I was a teenager coming home after a really bad day of teenhood, I would sit down with my mother and spill out my troubles, but they always made us laugh.
  •  "Mom, I dropped a book from my locker today, and it landed on the head of the cutest boy in school. His locker is below mine, which is ridiculous.  I'm 5'2" and he's 6'2"."
  • "Mom, the college prep class I'm taking is weird.  Even the teacher looked at me like I must be lost to be in her class.  It's been more than a week, and I feel I am trying to break in on a clique of beach girls. I want to be at the beach, but I am not crazy about the company."  
  • "Mom, that teacher asked me if I had read The Source by Michener.  I want to write my analysis essay on it, and she doesn't even believe I have read the book I have chosen."
As an adult, these phone calls always served to make life something I could laugh at.  Together we made the perfect funny bone.
  • Mom, I just spent the morning cleaning up dog vomit which my husband made sure to point out to me just before I stepped in it.  He gets up at least an hour before I do. It was very cold through the paper towels.  Do you know he was very annoyed about the affect of stomach acid on linoleum?
  • Mom, my students were particularly energetic yesterday.  I made them get out of their seats and do jumping jacks, and then we started on the lesson.  Today they wanted to know if we would be exercising again.  Shucks, we do exercises every day: grammar.
  • Mom, your granddaughter asked me if I would still love her when she is a big girl using the potty instead of pullups.  The doctor was right: she definitely was potty trained before four years old.  All it took was telling her I would love her every time she grew bigger.  Instant potty trained child.  Really this is prime information every parent needs and no one shared.
These days she gets caught in loops, repeating herself.  I tell her about the weather over and over like she hasn't already asked me three times.  I call prepared to tell her a story that will make her laugh, because she knows there is something very wrong with her memory and that unspoken knowledge ensnares her in fits of weeping if I don't keep her focused on something humorous.
  • Mom, she's a junior now and wants to be an engineer.  Oh, she's wanted to do that since she was about twelve.  Her birthday is in June.  But I've been telling her she is not allowed to grow any more since she was about seven, and I think this time she is listening to me.
  • No, Mom, even if you moved half way here it would still be a long way to walk.  About four hundred miles, which would leave your feet a bit sore.  And then there's that long walk back.
  • Well, Mom, occasionally the grading does get me down, but when it's 11:50 PM and I read an essay in which the student has written, "Marlowe was really confused when he found the book written in cypher, and he thought there was a spy trying to steal the ivory, but it was really a skinny Russian guy wearing patched clothes.  What was Conrad thinking when he wrote that?" Of course, then I have to explain the book to her, and by the time I am done, we've had quite a chuckle.
This woman I call my mother is my father's last wife, so she didn't give birth to me.  But she and I have always had a favorite "you say, I say" -- "I almost remember giving birth to you."  "Mom, I almost remember it, too."

This could be me thirty years from now, and if I don't write these books now, they will never be written.  Whatever the dream, don't let it die with you.  Don't let it become lost one day in the thunderous shift of a mind. 

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