On Saturday I brought Mom to a cousin's cookout. It was fun, a great time to reconnect with relatives who are now scattered about the country. When I was growing up, these cousins were the "little kids" as they are four to ten years younger than me. Now their children are the young adults, going off to college and traveling around the world. Time really does fly.
My parents and their parents are good friends. They did lots of things together as a foursome: fairs and festivals, cookouts and campfires. My folks even helped them build their log house, their retirement home, on the pond. "Do you remember building the log cabin?" Mom asked everybody, over and over.
After both women became widowed they still did things together, even traveling to Europe. Cousin P_ understands what is going on with Mom. Her own mother had Alzheimer's disease. She understands Mom's limitations and absurd conversations. Cousin P_ is still warm, fun, and loving toward Mom.
At the cookout Mom did not want me to sit with her. I was afraid that she might become lost because she was someplace "new", there were a lot of unfamiliar people about, and it was quite loud at times. She kept trying to shoosh me away, so she could talk to people without me around. "These are my relatives, not yours." she repeats.
I am again stung by the "thoughtless" things she says. I know she is "taking claim" to these people, they are hers, they are her friends, they are important to her. She is collecting what she knows. Gathering her possessions to her bosom. Just like when she says, over and over: "this is my church", "this is my cat", "this is my friend".
She doesn't remember: if these people are her relatives, I would be related because I am her daughter.
"It was nice to see all the cousins today." I say as we walk to the car.
"These are my relatives, not yours." she repeats.
"They are my cousins too." I say quietly.
She gives me a sideways disdainful glance, "No they're not."
The truth is, these people are my Dad's cousins, not Mom's. I am the one related to them, not her. But, today they are hers, I'm just the driver.