We had a nice afternoon together. I brought her the poem my father wrote for her over 35 years ago and put it in a new frame. Somehow, the glass on the old frame had broken a few weeks before. I wanted to take a picture of her in front of her dresser with the poem behind her. As she looked at herself in the mirror and touched her hair, dissatisfied with her appearance she said, “This is no time to take a picture.” I said, “Just smile, mom.” She did as she was told. Then we left her apartment and took a walk to the bistro at the assisted living home where she lives. We watched the activities of the other residents and I told her about my kids and what they were doing. While we were there, she enjoyed a cup of tea, six sugar-free cookies, and two regular chocolate chip cookies (she loves her sweets!). But first she asked me, “How much do the cookies cost?” “They’re free mom.” “Oh! That’s nice!” Filled to the brim with cookies, we returned to her apartment to relax on her couch.
Sometimes, moments of her past come back to her in a hodgepodge. They come in disjointed pieces and it may take me a few minutes to figure out what she’s remembering. As she woke up from a little nap and she asked me about her sister. She called her sister by name, and that, in itself, is unusual these days. She said, “I wonder how Aunt Gloria is doing?” “She’s fine mom.” “Where does she live?” “In Valley Stream.” “Oh, I thought she was far away. She has five children, right?” “No mom, she has one child and four grandchildren.” Several minutes go by and she asks me again about her sister. “She has five children, right?” Now I am figuring it out. “No mom, she has one. You have five children.” “Five? Oh, that’s a lot.” I repeat her children’s names to her. She says, “Sometimes, I don’t remember things.”
She falls back to sleep. When she wakes up again she says, “What a boring life. He’s coming home soon. You know when he comes home he comes downstairs to talk to me.” She’s thinking she is living at my brother’s house and it is several years ago. So I go along with it, “Yeah, mom, Anthony’s coming home and he’ll come see you.” She smiles then and says, “He still calls me every day, he never gives up.” She’s not talking about my brother any more, now she’s talking about Joe, the man she kept company with until he died at the age of 94. When my mother remembers things, they tend to be from when she was about 88 years old, just before the Alzheimer’s won its battle over her brain. I am learning not to correct her. I try to just go along with it for the moment. It helps her feel like she’s having a normal conversation. She falls back to sleep and then a moment later she says, “You know what I miss? I miss my rings.” “I know mom, Anthony has them so that they don’t get lost or stolen.” “I know, but I miss them.”
The television is on and we are watching a show that thrives on videos of ordinary people filming crazy and sometimes dangerous situations where people fall into things and over things and everyone laughs. My mother laughs at a segment of the show and then closes her eyes again. She opens her eyes with alarm, “What time is it?” She looks at the kitchen clock, the battery isn’t working and it must have stopped at 10:40 at some point. She reads the time, “10:40?” “No mom, that clock isn’t working. It’s 3:30.” She looks at me with concern, “You’d better go home. You have your family.” “It’s okay mom, my kids are grown. They don’t live at home anymore.” “Oh, I can’t keep up. They grow so fast.” She closes her eyes and then opens them quickly, “Do you have my pocketbook?” I point to it. “It’s right there mom.” She sits back against the couch for a moment and then thinks of something else, “Did I give you the key? I don’t know where it is?” “Yeah, mom, I have the key.” She is comforted, everything is safe. She closes her eyes again. I lean against her so that she can feel my presence in her sleep. I think to myself, “I wish I had the key, the key to unlock your mind.” But there is no key, so I reach out and hold her hand. That is all that I can do.
http://www.theresadodaro.com Author of The Tin Box Trilogy