Published in the Rains County Leader on May 5, 2022:
In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m sharing a slightly updated chapter from my second memoir titled “Mom’s Long Goodbye:”
I miss Mom. I’ve missed her for a long time. For most of my life, I talked to her almost every day, but after Alzheimer’s invaded her mind, those talks gradually lost their meaning.
Mom was smart, but she was never an intellectual. She didn’t care much about politics or philosophy or current events. She cared about her family and the things that affected our lives directly.
She went to work outside our home when I was in third grade, and Jim and I became latchkey kids. It was a gentler time when children played outside unsupervised and walked or rode their bikes to school without fear. But Mom was cautious. We were required to stay inside when she and Dad were at work, and I was expected to call her when I arrived home from school.
It was supposed to be a brief check-in to let her know I was safe, but it became a special time between mother and daughter. She shared funny stories about her day on the switchboard and her latest frustrations with the office harridan, and I shared the latest playground escapades and test grades. In junior high and high school, my daily reports expanded to include the joys and sorrows of puppy love.
After I graduated and went away to college, our daily talks stopped for a while. There were no cell phones then, and our limited family budget didn’t stretch far enough to cover many long-distance calls. After a year, I dropped out and moved back home to work for a while, and the calls resumed. I called her on my lunch hour to bring her up to date on the latest office gossip and, later on, the latest antics of the cute guy whose desk I passed several times a day on my way to deliver files or pick up mail.
When I married him, the calls continued, and I asked advice on setting up house-keeping, cooking, and other newlywed issues. When I quit work to start a family, our conversations turned to baby subjects and the intrigues of our favorite soap operas. The calls continued through my divorce and my learning-to-be-single years. And then when I got back into the dating pool, we cycled back to the joys and sorrows of a more mature kind of love.
Through all of it, she was always a good listener, a sympathetic ear who usually took my side and was always there when I needed her. Then she started to slip away. She asked the same question or told the same story several times in a short conversation. She began to have trouble keeping the characters straight in the soaps and in our lives. Alzheimer’s came between us and stole away the history we had built together, and I missed her.
When she and Dad moved in with us, I saw her every day, and we spoke often, but we didn’t really talk. There were flashes of her old personality, but her disease had changed her from my mother and lifelong confidante into a needy child who depended on me for her security.
After six years of living together, she left my home and moved into an assisted living facility near my brother. We tried a speaker phone conference call shortly after the move, but she couldn’t understand where that disembodied voice came from, and she didn’t know how to respond. We didn’t try any more calls after that.
I visited her every two or three months, and I sat and held her hand while we watched TV. I told her I loved her, and she said she loved me, but I’m not sure she knew who I was.
Mom passed away ten years ago this month. Now she’s whole in mind and spirit. I wish I could talk to her, but I know she’s busy catching up on all the heavenly gossip. I miss her, but not as much as I did when she was still here.