A love letter to my mom.
I’ve always felt lucky to have you as my mother. You were a steady, stable influence in my life, showing me by example what was important and what was just. . . stuff. I mostly appreciated that, even if you sometimes made me do things I didn’t like. Okay, I still don’t get the not letting me quit Brownies until I “flew up” to the Girl Scouts. You know I wasn’t cut out for that organization.
Yeah, yeah, I know what you’d be saying if you were still you. “Get over it.”
And, I have. Mostly. Because it's small spuds stacked against your smile, which lights up a room, or the fact that you gave me a foundation of laughter. Of security and values. That you built me a platform from which to grow.
I have a million memories that I hoard deep in my heart. Of you waking me up at midnight the night of the sixth grade Mother/Daughter tea to have me tell Dad the compliment my schoolmate gave me about you. Of you holding me the night I heard on the radio that Judy Meehan had been killed in a car accident. Of the work you put in on that long coat you made to go over my prom dress and the shoes you covered in matching material.
I can still picture your face on my wedding day when you gave me the locket Dad had given you on your eighteenth birthday. (I hope to someday give it to Christopher's wife). Can still feel the security of having you take care of the day to day stuff for us when we brought Chris home from the hospital—and a few months later when you took care of him while I was in a different hospital following my cancer surgery--as well as the rest of us during the recovery period.
You racked up hours and hours baby sitting when Steve's and my budget stretched to cover either a night out or to get a sitter—but rarely both. I have a particularly fond memory of the weekend you took care of not only Christopher but Doug and Mimi’s boys as well—and taught them all to play poker. I think the oldest was about seven.
But that's what kills me about Alzheimer’s—the memories that define our history have mostly disappeared for you now. You didn’t recognize Christopher when he picked you up on Sunday to bring you to our place. You asked me if I lived there--in the house I've been in for 39 years. We've seen too many people fall to this dementia. First Toni, then Jack, then Walt. Now you.
I often wonder what era it is in your head these days. I'm guessing it's from a while back, since you think that Daddy is still alive if elusively distant and you wonder where your folks are. I know you’d rather still be in your own home than in the nice little group home we found for you, but it's a huge load off our shoulders knowing you’re safe. Things went downhill so damn fast this year. I knew that Ken and Ron and I stopping by pretty much daily and the nightly help we had for you was no longer enough the rainy night the police called me at 11 pm to say they’d found you wandering far from home. And I'm happy to see that you're not so lonely where you are now, with all the activities and your friend Esther.
But, God, I hate this fricking disease. Because even though you're still here physically, the woman I knew is disappearing, piece by piece, in front of my eyes. And, God, I miss you, Mom.
Love, SuSu Maria