“Now, how are we related?” Mom asks me as I drive her to her home from mine.
“I’m your daughter,” I say, probably for the twentieth time that week. It doesn’t matter—I could say it 500 times. A brain that can’t hold on to things just plain can’t hold on to them no matter how many times it is told something. I wish I could write it on a sticky note and somehow press it into the flesh of her brain where it could be absorbed and finally remembered. Usually Mom thinks I’m her older sister, Isobell and she thinks my sister Maxine, is her younger sister, Ruth.
“You never had to drive the derrick horse,” she has said often. “I didn’t know about the derrick horse—I wasn’t there.” “Well, why weren’t you there?” “I wasn’t born yet. I’m your daughter, not your sister.” “Oh, right. If you say so,” she says.
Maxine tells me I shouldn’t argue with Mom. It certainly doesn’t do any good, but it makes being with her a little more adventurous.
“I always had to drive the derrick horse,” Mom says. “Maxine never had to drive the derrick horse.” “You mean Ruth?” “Well, yes. What did I say? Ruth never had to drive the derrick horse. Mother favored her because she was sick. I always got the bad end of things. And you never had to drive the derrick horse either.”
I give up for a while. I try to ask her what the derrick horse is but she doesn’t tell me. I’ll have to google it some day.
“Where do you think my husband is?” she asks. “Mom, you know where he is,” I say. “No, where is he?” “He’s in Heaven.” “How long has he been gone?” “Ten years.” “That’s a long time. You have no idea what it’s like to not have a husband.” “No,” I say, “I don’t. And if that time ever comes it will be awful.” “But you’ve had your husband so long and I had mine such a short time.” “You had him nearly 60 years,” I say. “That long? Well, it wasn’t long enough. Was he sick?” “Yes.” “How long was he sick?” “About seven years.” “Really? What did he have?” “Alzheimer’s.” “Oh, that’s an awful thing to have. A lot of our family had that didn’t they? Did I ever have it? I can’t remember.”
I am so sorry she’s like this—she used to be very interesting to talk to. Now we just re-hash the same things over and over and over again.
“I just want to be with my husband,” she says. “But I don’t think he’s interested in me anymore.” “Why do you say that, Mom?” “Well, he doesn’t come see me.” “How can he come see you when he’s in Heaven?” “I think he’s found somebody else.” “No, Mom. They don’t find other people in Heaven. He’s waiting for you.” “Oh, do you think so? That makes me feel better. How do you know?” “I just know.” “OK. I’ll take your word for it. You’re sure about that?” “Yep, I’m sure. “How do you know so much?” “You taught me, Mom.”
“Did you like him?” “Of course. He’s my dad.” “Oh, right. Well, I liked him the first time I met him. I didn’t want to go. I told myself I would never go on any more blind dates. But they told me I’d be sorry if I didn’t go on this one. So I went. And I liked him the first time I met him.” “He’s a good one, all right,” I tell her.
Another day on the phone she might say, “You’ll never guess what I’m reading.” “Anne of Green Gables?” I venture. “How did you know?”
I know because she has been watching that movie every day for about a year now. She isn’t reading it, she is watching it. It gives her great pleasure.
“I remember when Vada came to school one day and said she had the most wonderful book and that I had to read it. It was….Now what was it called?” “Anne of Green Gables,” I remind her. “Oh, yes. Anne of Green Gables. And I just had to go right out and get it, too. I loved Cedar Point. Didn’t you love that school?” “I didn’t go there,” I say. “You didn’t? Why didn’t you?” “Because I wasn’t around. I’m your daughter, not your sister.” “You keep telling me that. Well, those teachers were so dumb. They put me up a grade. They never should have done that. And my parents just let them. Then I didn’t fit in anywhere.” “They put you up because you were so smart, Mom.” “Well, it was the wrong thing to do.”
Mom had been very smart and once in awhile her shattered memory will rally and she’ll do something astounding like recite “Little Orphan Annie” in its entirety. She also never forgets to be grateful or kind or offer to help.
“Don’t you have something for me to do like rake all the leaves?” she asks.
Somehow letting a 94 year old woman who is very wobbly on her legs go outside to rake leaves doesn’t seem like a very good idea. Neither does letting her walk part way home when she announces two miles from our destination, “You can just let me off here. It won’t hurt me to walk.”
“I thought I’d be going this week,” Mom says. “Going where?” I ask. “To that other place.” “Do you mean Heaven?” “I guess that’s where. How can I get there? Could I take a train?”
That stops me in my tracks so to speak. I can’t think of anything intelligent to say to that. A train. I know older people wonder a lot about just how they’re going to get out of this world. Taking a train wouldn’t be a bad idea.
“Will you come with me?” she asks. “I’m not quite ready,” I answer. Actually, some days I’m ready but not today.
Too bad I can’t just escort her to Heaven, look around a bit, do a little visiting and then come back. Once she got settled, Mom would be delighted to stay.
But she is going to have to ride that train alone. I pray that it will be a smooth and comfortable ride. And I hope for her sake that the train stops for her very soon. She’s had her ticket for a long, long time.