This is what I remember: she accepted me from the beginning, treated me like her own daughter. She came down for every surgery, nursed me, nurtured me. I remember we went to the store one time and I couldn’t walk, she drove me around in one of those wheel chair carts. She laughed and laughed as she piled things on top of me. She knew I needed out of the house. She knew I needed a mother.
This is what I remember: she baked and cooked with joy, she has a recipe for everything. Whatever I made, she wanted the recipe. She called to tell me what she ate at her most recent sorority meeting, wondering if I had ever made it, did I want the recipe. We shared a love of cooking, something her other “daughters” avoided. I always took the recipe, always gave her mine.
This is what I remember: bustling, always moving, a constant rush of activity. She drove herself here, an hour and a half away, regularly. She attended more events in her community in a month that I do in a year. She knew everyone in town, gave me updates on friends I would never meet. At first it drove me a bit crazy but as time passed, I found myself asking after her friends as well. Praying for this one now in the hospital, excited that one is one a family trip.
This is what I remember: plenty of times she has driven me crazy, too nosy, bossy, demanding of her son’s time. At first we struggled with some boundaries, some letting go, both of us. Eventually we figured out how to share the man we both love. I remember staying at her home after her husband died, after everyone went to bed, she came crying, sobbing and climbed into bed with us. The ultimate act of vulnerability, unable to lay alone yet, finding warmth and love with us. The night before I married her son, her house overflowing with family and friends, every bedroom and couch spoken for, I slept with her. She lost her husband, I was gaining one, another vulnerable time. Boundaries we both grew to accept, ones others might find a bit awkward.
My mind is overcome with memories because hers is not. She doesn’t remember that my son is out of jail, worries about him all the time. She doesn’t remember what she just ordered, doesn’t even know the conversation we had 5 minutes before. She makes phone calls and then repeats them again minutes later. She doesn’t laugh very much, she is quiet and just watches. She bustles less, she went inactive in her service sorority. She doesn’t know how to clean her pool, the one she has had for 20 years. She doesn’t cook or bake, she let me bring everything for the party. She didn’t ask for any recipes. Not one.
We are losing her, bit by bit. She still remembers all of us, but for how long? Her sons have some very hard decisions to make in the coming months, a consensus between three brothers who rarely agree. Facing her rapid dementia in their own ways, at their own paces, when their father is already gone, is a luxury I am not sure we have. I prod, I nudge, I push my husband, the first born son, to lead. I want to care for her like she has for us so many times. My vote is a silent one though, so for now I will just keep remembering. I roll around in memories, holding tight to who she was, who she has been to me. I know one day soon she may need to sleep in my bed, scared and vulnerable. There is room for her, there is always room.