We just passed Valentine’s Day, but I thought a love story would be a nice way to deal with February weather.
Remember: You Matter. Your Stories Matter. Tell Them Well!
The Storytellers Channel
My mom’s memory is deteriorating. It’s been getting worse for a while, but the decline has been precipitous since the Fall. Momma, her doctors, my sister and I all share the desire that she ‘age in place.’ She still lives on her own and she’s fine in familiar surroundings, but a visit includes covering the same conversation repeatedly.
I drop by to make lunch and dinner most days. My wife, Marie, covers for me on the days when I have an appointment I can’t reschedule. Momma and I eat lunch together and I ask questions to prompt her to talk. Her short-term memory is a will o’ the wisp. Frequently, by the time I’ve washed the dishes and cleaned up she doesn’t remember what we had for lunch, but she’s quick to tell me how much she enjoyed it. And her appetite is good, for while every time I put a plate in front of her, she exclaims, “This is so much food.” I blink, and she’s a member of the Clean Plate Club.
Her long-term memory vacillates between stories of my dad and her family, particularly her mom. Momma is a rabid feminist. She can get fired up about men interfering in women’s issues faster than a Ferrari. She marvels at the things her momma had to overcome and then she tells me how proud my dad would be of me and then she recounts their love story.
Lately, she talks about Daddy losing a job because of her when they were dating. She’d been in the hospital for some reason and was afraid and he refused to leave her there alone. I have no idea where her momma and daddy were, but she always recounts how, “He wouldn’t leave me.”
This frequently leads to, “How could I have been so lucky?”
Momma first saw Daddy during Junior High School orientation. She was a rising 7th grader being given a tour of the school she would attend the following Fall. The school was designed with ramps for going up and stairs for coming down. The first time she saw him, he was walking down the Up incline. She thought he was the cutest thing she’s ever seen.
A few months later she was sitting in church looking out the window and saw him. He was going to the church that backed up to her church. At 13 years old, she changed churches the next Sunday.
It was later that Summer she and her next-door neighbor were walking together to a birthday party. Daddy and some of his friends were following them. Being typical, teenage boys, they were making smart mouth comments. Momma decided she didn’t care how cute he looked, he was obnoxious, and she wanted nothing to do with him.
Turned out they were all headed to the same party. Later that night everyone was playing Spin the Bottle. I don’t know which one of them spun the bottle, but the result was they went behind a sheet and kissed.
Momma says, “That was it. One kiss and I was in love.”
Momma asks me regularly, “You’re religious. Why would God take someone like your father, who made such a contribution to this world, and leave me?”
For the longest time, I used to say, “I don’t know Mom, I miss him, too.”
Lately, I’ve begun to say, “I guess I still need a mom.”
This probably sounds a little glib, but I mean it sincerely. I’ve been changed by this business of caregiving. I’m not new to taking care of people. I’ve done my share of diaper changing and I’ve prepared meals and cleaned up and done laundry and the myriad of things that used to thought of as “Women’s work”. If my ex-wives read this, I’m sure they’ll be thinking, “But not often enough and not when we asked, but on your own sweet time.”
Obviously, I still have room to grow, but the biggest change has been in my attitude. Momma has always told me, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”
The outward manifestation of this has been tone. Keeping my voice calm and gentle, even when having to insist she ‘Shower now’ or that ‘We have to go to the doctor’s appointment’ or that ‘Yes, she has to take her meds.’
My dad taught me the power of distraction and but this experience caring for Momma is teaching me compassion.
My visits always end with a kiss and a hug and my telling her I love her, and that I’ll call that evening. Lately as I’m leaving, hustling to the car to get back to work, I find myself thinking, “Thank God for that kiss.”
I Want to Hear from You
I’d love to hear your stories.
Til next time,