Monday, November 28, 2011


A few weeks ago I told you that Mom's sorority sisters were going to visit and take her out for lunch.  I told Mom this on a Tuesday. She was dressed and waiting all day Wednesday and all day Thursday. Thursday at 1:00 I got a call from Mom's aide: were these ladies coming to take her out for lunch? I had no idea. I was at work and had no way to get in contact with them. It was a very rainy day, were they lost, broke down? Did they ever call and excuse themselves?

At my next visit with Mom, she told me she was angry that she had missed her "meeting at the sorority" and that she would have gone if she had her car.

The ladies did finally make it up to visit Mom. They took her out for lunch.  The note I got from one of them said that they didn't think Mom knew who they were. She couldn't connect the old names with these old faces. She couldn't even participate in the conversation about the "good old times".   When I asked Mom how her visit was, she didn't remember going out to lunch at all. She was still feeling angry that she had missed the original "meeting at the sorority".

I am grateful for these ladies for trying to maintain the bond of friendship that has been there for so long. To reach out one more time, before they all fly south for the winter.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

the book

I got the first sign of affection from my Mother today, since...I don't know when. She reached out and touched my hand. An acknowledgement and thanks for something I did for her.

Dammmdementia I hate you.

Maybe fifteen or so years ago, Mom had written thirty-five poetic stanzas about all the animals that visit her yard. Something suitable for the early elementary school reader, something that her students would enjoy. Simple zoology, factual and fun animal poetry. As I was cleaning out her house I found many copies of this work, each printed off her computer with edits and corrections.

All through the years we've talked about getting this book published. Perhaps a cartoon of the animal one side of the page, with the appropriate stanza; and on the facing page a real picture of the animal with information about it. Science, poetry, art... all rolled into one. That was the kind of teacher my Mother was.

But time is running out, Mom's reading and comprehension skills are fading.

There are many places on-line where you can get a personal book made with your photos and your words. This seemed like a way to get the poetry to become an actual book.

It arrived last week, not bad, I should have gone with an even larger font. I couldn't wait, I couldn't save it for Mom's birthday (in three weeks), I couldn't save it for Christmas, I had to give it to her.  And because it is special to me, and I hope to her, I wanted to give it to her quietly, without the distraction of celebrations.

"Did I write that?" she asked me ten times.
"Yes Mom, your wrote every word, your name is on the cover."
"I don't remember these."
"Can you read to me about the fisher?"
As she reads the stanzas, sometimes I know she is reciting it from memory, other times she is stumbling over the printed words.
"Did I write this?" she asks again. "Do you have the original? Can I see what I wrote?" She is trying to puzzle this out, as if she could only believe it was her poetry if she could see it in her own handwriting. After flipping through it for a while, I finally get her to read it to me, all of it. Then she reached out to touch my hand.
She told me that this could be her Christmas present. Her gift to me was her touch.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I moved Mom out of her house one year ago.  Time flies, even if you're not having fun.

Another task on the procrastination pile, was to go through Mom's cook books and recipe cards. It turned out that it wasn't as hard to do as I had anticipated.  Her beautiful handwriting, spoke to me, a part of her that is gone, her artistry, her clarity.

If I kept the cards would it help to "keep" my mother? No, of course not.  But throwing them away, one by one, seemed so mean. Mom, can't we bake these cookies, together, one more time?

My Mother's mother died when she was young, she never had her own mother's recipes. I think the new step-mother threw them all away. It was always a sore spot for her, because her mom was a great cook.

So when I grew-up and left home, I was keenly aware that I should grab the family recipes while I had a chance. My collection has always included the family favorites and as I found out last night, Mom's recipe card collection included some from my repertoire. As I already had all her best recipes, what was the point of saving any of these cards? I kept about six, the most favorite from my childhood, soiled and stained, bent and smudged cards, with Mom's beautiful handwriting.

What I didn't expect to find in this huge pile of cookbooks and cards was Mom's aunt's recipe notebook. It is a collection of little slips of paper: lists of ingredients with no titles, no directions, no temperatures, nor time. This aunt, like her sisters, were all reported to be excellent cooks.  Who knows what I will find in there when I read through that book. Maybe the recipes for her legendary banana cake or historic holiday leg of lamb.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

old friends

Some of Mom's sorority sisters are going to be taking her out for lunch tomorrow. When I told her that yesterday, she could not gather her thoughts around the meaning of those words. It was so hard to see that.

These ladies all went to "teachers' college" together in the 1950's. It's wonderful that after so many years, they still get together once or twice a year. And it is wonderful that they are willing to travel way up there to see Mom, to still include her.

When it all finally clicked in Mom's mind, her next reaction was:
"I don't have anything to wear."
"Yes, you do Mom, you have a whole closet of nice clothes."
"Those clothes aren't mine. They were left over from somebody else."  So we proceeded to have a round and round conversation/argument about whose clothes are in her drawers and closet. (Divert!!)
"Let's go pick out an outfit for you to wear to lunch on Thursday."
"When? Who's coming?"
"Some of your sorority sisters are coming on Thursday. Look I wrote it on your calendar, today is Tuesday, in two days you'll go out to lunch."
"What day is today?"
"Today is Tuesday (pointing to the TUES on the digital clock) in two days you'll go out to lunch. Your sorority sisters are coming on Thursday. Look I wrote it on your calendar ."
Why does this conversation still surprise me?  Mom hasn't known her days and time for over two years.

I got out Mom's college year book and found the group photo of the sorority.  I read off some of the names of some of the ladies I think will be visiting. "Look, here's Annie and Lauren and Margaret and Irma and you."  She cradled the yearbook in her arms. Running her finger over the photo and pointing out people. This was something familiar. She reclined on her bed, cuddling the book, looking at all the young women wearing their sorority blazers and dark skirts. It was like she was hugging her teddy, comfort and familiarity.  What will she think tomorrow when six gray-haired ladies come to take her out for lunch?

My husband asked me if my Mom knows when I'm coming to visit her. Meaning, do I call her in the morning to let her know that I'll be there later that day?  No, I haven't done that in years, I just show up. Why call her and tell her I'm coming, and then have her worry for the next few hours that I'm not there; or have her forget altogether that I was coming and had called in the first place.

"I have a photograph, Preserve your memories, They’re all that’s left you..." Old Friends by Simon & Garfunkel

Thursday, November 3, 2011

thoughtful writing

I just discovered the New York Times writer Paula Span.  I find her writing thoughtful and thought provoking. Here is a list of her posts.