My mom used to tell stories about my precociousness as a child. She claims that I started singing the refrain to “Old MacDonald” (E-I-E-I-O) at seven months. She was thrilled when I was finally able to let her know, by pointing and crying rather than just crying, that I had an ear ache. At last, she could help me without trying to guess the cause of my distress.
These days, Mom is often acting the role of my crying baby. Her pleas for help, her odd comments, the unfounded complaints, all having some basis in a shared reality that I am required to decipher. Is someone REALLY stealing her stuff? Does she actually need a ride somewhere? Is her agitation coming from her established conditions, or is something new and more sinister brewing?
My brother called last week to relate a call he received from Mom asking for a ride home. I explained that this was part of her illness and that she was confused about where she was. It’s always best to reassure her, tell her you love her and you’ll see her soon. And ask to speak to whomever dialed the phone. They can confirm what’s going on. Just be glad she still knows you.
On a recent weekend, Bob and I took Mom out for brunch. Our birthdays are two days apart, so we figured a little joint celebration was in order. I brought Mom earrings I had been keeping for her and a birthday card from a friend.
We had a nice meal and brought Mom back to the home. A guy who sings and plays guitar for the residents was entertaining the gals and Mom was excited. Bob wasn’t feeling well and was waiting for me in the car. I sat Mom down in the living room where she was honored with a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday” and I ran up to her room to put away her earrings and her birthday card.
As I prepared to leave, I told Mom where I put her stuff, kissed her, told her I’d be back tomorrow and went to join my husband in the car.
Later, my cell phone rang. It was Mom.
“What did you want me to remember?”
I told her that I left the card on her dresser and put the little pouch holding her earrings in the top drawer. She searched where I suggested and found the items.
“Oh wonderful! I’m so glad I can still talk to you and ask you about things I need to remember.”
You and me both, Mom. I’ll always try to figure out where it hurts. I’m just so glad you’re still able to point.