Bringing the Faraway Closer
Many weekday afternoons I stole away from my workday for a little rendezvous. I drove far into the southern part of the city.
There I hurried through the lobby, walked swiftly down the corridors and until I reached the locked door. There I punched in a secret code that allowed me into the inner sanctum, the memory care unit where my mother lived.
Walking into my mother’s room was always a surprise: I never knew who would greet me; a sweet curly-haired woman wearing a pink sweat suit and looking quietly compose? An anxious haggard woman who bent to pick up invisible lint on the floor and jabbered with invisible creatures lurking in the corners? Or an exhausted former beauty, lying across the single bed wearing an orange pullover and an adult diaper? My task was to appreciate every aspect of my complicated mother and whoever she was at the moment.
When my friend Maril asked, “Can I go with you to visit your mother?” I felt like a flutter of angels had gathered around me.
“Really?” I asked. “You want to see Mom with me?”
She did. I prepared her for our visit, describing Mom’s various moods. Maril did not seem shocked, worried or afraid. I told her about walking into the sometimes chaotic energy of the locked Alzheimer’s unit. She simply nodded as if this were an ordinary occurrence, which, for me, it was.
The day of our visit I felt lightness inside; I was eager to share my secret world with my friend.
Throughout the years, Mom has always been gracious with my friends and that day was no exception. Mom was sitting at a table in the dining room with a magazine in front of her. She looked pretty and serene and she smiled when we came in. We sat next to her and Maril took her hands.
“How are you Fran?” Maril said, looking into my mother’s eyes.
“Well I you know the scatter of it all,” my mother answered.
“I do know the scatter of it all. How are you getting along here?”
“Like a diamond in the sky,” my mother said.
As I listened as my mother and my friend talk, I was “Your mother is really something,” Maril said as we left the home. “I enjoyed seeing her. I’d like to go again with you sometime.”proud of my mother’s poetic and eccentric answers, proud of the way she engaged in the conversation. And I was grateful that my friend was able to appreciate my mother, listen to her words and intuit their deeper meaning.
The visit was a huge gift for me. Seeing Maril engage with and appreciate my mom just as she was reminded me of the depths of my mother’s many talents and facets. This knowledge later helped me get through those moments when my mother seemed faraway or lost. My friend reminded me- there are so many ways to carry on a good conversation. All you need is attention, intention and love.
I spent last week with my father, and we visited my mother who has Alzheimer’s and is now in assisted living each day I was there. So the varying personalities you describe your mother having resonated with me, as did the deeper meaning you and Maril found in the words she tried to say.
“I don’t want to lose you,” my mother told me one day last week, as if I were a sock. I laughed it off, thinking she couldn’t lose me. But as I reflected later, I wondered, does she know she is losing her memories, one by one? Does she fear she will lose her memories of me? Is that what she wanted to tell me?
As you say, there is a deeper meaning in the scatter of it all.
Thank you, Theresa, for sharing this beautiful conversation with your mom. What she said is so profound.
TY for sharing your experience. It’s been almost 12 years now and I still remember the wonder, the horror and sometimes the humor of it all. In another life time I knew your friend Maril. Even in those long ago days she often had good instincts. She blessed your Mom and you – and the two of you blessed her.
The scatter of it all, a soft and simple analogy. I have been there, too Deborah, the sole caregiver and I cherish the moments with each person I met on the other side of the door as I it opened. Thank you for your story. It reminded me of the closeness, between my mother and me, particularly bitter/sweet during those years..
It’s wonderful to think about those close and deep connections. Thanks for sharing this.
I like that you allowed yourself the support of a close friend, that you trusted her to be open to all ways of being and communicating. You share the journey well!