We tend to immortalize the dead as better than they were. There is no human that does not create a wake of messes for others to clean up at some point. I’m doing my part, I can assure you. My mother was no different. She could yell at us when our rooms looked like an FBI ransacking. She could give us the stink eye when what we needed was mercy. And she didn’t like talking on the phone about nothing. When I was homesick, away in college, I really did want to talk more. About nothing. Like I do now.
But she almost always came back and apologized when she had been too hard on us. And she was the first one to laugh when reaching over the front seat to pop my misbehaving brother with a comb (I certainly never misbehaved) and the comb flew out of her hand and smacked the backseat window. She wasn’t perfect. But she was my mother.
In August of 2015, she received the official Alzheimer’s diagnosis. To my knowledge, she is the only one in my family to have ever had the disease. Apparently the disease did not care that we had no family history. It did its thing anyway.
We were lucky that she never forgot our names. She never saw me enter a room when she did not know that it was me and that my name was Missy. But she lost the ability to laugh at herself and others. And she lost her zing along the way.
Every now and then, I am looking for something else and I stumble upon something I jotted down or typed on a random day dealing with Alzheimer’s. Today I was looking through some notes and found this. I don’t know if it was an intro to something or an odd attempt at poetry. I don’t remember what was behind my writing it. Either way, it took me back and made me gratefully melancholy for what I had and still have in my mother.
Daughter of Another Mother
I have to go meet my mom.
Only she’s not there.
She’s not where I left her.
And she’s not where she told me she’d be.
She’s not where I’ve looked for her.
She’s lost; locked away behind her diagnosis.
She’s locked in a room where I haven’t been able to find her.
That’s what I keep thinking. But she’s still here. She is still “findable,” I’ve just been looking in the wrong places. I’ve been trying to find her where she was. Where she should be. I’ve been trying to bring her out. To me. But she can’t come to me. I have to go to her. I have to meet her where she is and on her terms.
If I ever want to see my mother again, I have to set aside the person she used to be. And I have to set aside the person I am right now.
If I can change myself enough and allow her to be changed already, then we can sit down in her room together and be.
Because right now, that’s all there is.