Mom loves her photographs. For a few years now, she has been tearing apart the photo albums and re-sorting the pictures. Sorting them into groups that don't make any sense to me. When Mom moved into assisted living, we moved her card-table with the mountain of photos, as it was, into her new apartment, so this "project" would be there for her to work on. She really has not touched it since.
At my visit on Thursday, I brought her more photos from "home" and then, in an attempt to clean her apartment, we spent two hours going through the pile of pictures on the card-table. The layer of dust on the pictures got us both sneezing.
She told me stories about each photo. Stories that I knew were not real, true, or accurate. But sometimes Mom would pop-out a golden bit of knowledge, that would surprise me.
We were looking at a picture of me, at 1 years old, sitting on my Dad's knee on the front steps of our new home. "That's JL and the baby." she says. She does not say "her" or "you" or my name. She can't connect the baby to the woman sitting beside her. "I wonder where JL is? I haven't seen him in a long time." Mom says this with the tone in her voice, like she thinks he's wandered off to Texas. I gasp and sputter, once again shocked by Mom's words. I divert her attention to the next photo.
Many of the pictures were from her time teaching; the musicals she put on with her students, the bulletin boards in her classroom, the projects the students worked on, the outings and trips they took. She was very excited to talk about her time as a second grade teacher.
There were many photos from her college years. Adventures with her sorority sisters. Class trips and other activities. "You remember swimming at Xyz Lake!" she giggled. "We stayed in Jane's family cabin, remember, it was fun, we were all together, you remember." She would then press me to tell her what I remembered about this vacation. I forgot to fib. I forgot to "be with her in her place." I told her I could not have been there, as I had not been born yet. Then she got angry, cause she was "right" and I was "wrong" and that "of course I should remember this vacation!"
Divert, divert, on to the next photo.
A picture of Mom and Dad on their honeymoon. They are standing on a hilltop or cliff, with the mountains behind them. A tiny black and white photo of two skinny young people. "Oh, there's JL." she groans. "I wonder where HE is these days?" she looks at me for an answer. "Where IS he?" I don't know what to do. Do I give her a fiblet or the truth?
"Mom, Dad's been dead for about 12 years." I say quietly.
"Oh? Humpf." she mutters and looks at the next photo.
So much for remembering my Father's five year slow decline to death. I guess those memories didn't stay with her. So much for the grieving widow. Should I be glad that she didn't fall apart at this "news" about Dad? Dammmdementia I hate you.