Recently, I have been missing my mom – which is unusual because we had never been very close. I’ve been thinking about the way she used to be — about 10 years ago when she was still delivering the mail and stopping by on a whim. She would call fairly frequently just to fill me in on gossip or ask something about the kids. In those days, she was a gadabout. If she got bored, she would jump in her car and drive to some unknown point in the valley or to a neighboring town.
Every Sunday, she played the organ at the country church. For a time, she would regularly come to our house for dinner after the service. We had a small family discord and she stopped coming over and rarely called. As time and her dementia progressed, we lost contact until the memory loss became a safety issue. By then, when it was time to step in and arrange for her care, she no longer remembered the discord but the disengagement of recent years only made matters worse. I feel deprived of the last few reasonably normal years of her life before the dementia changed her into a stranger.
As I said, we were never very close but the dementia has forced into grim reality the realization that we have lost any possible opportunity to be close. Looking back into my childhood, I wished for a mother who would talk to me, tell me things, hug me and tell me she wasn’t angry with me. That just wasn’t meant to be and, now, it truly never will be. Having to let go of that hope and wish is hard. It makes me sad for both of us.
Mom remains in a memory care facility. She has lost a lot of weight and she no longer recognizes anyone. Her biggest pleasure is when my sister brings her cinnabons or something from McDonalds. She still walks loops around the hall with her walker and she hasn’t fallen for a couple of months (knock on wood). It isn’t easy going to visit her – in fact, it is very difficult. Her face is sallow and her eyes are vacant. She rarely makes eye contact and only grunts as a response to most questions or she repeats the question. Somewhere in that shell is a woman who had 4 children, cooked on a wood stove, chopped wood, taught children how to read, delivered mail, played the organ and acted as eucharistic minister in her church. She was also a woman who wanted to go to college but couldn’t because of financial constraints, a woman who loved her family but always wanted something more – a woman whose true dreams and desires will never be known.
I miss having her around and I wish that things could have been different – for both of us.