Time to Remember
Sometimes in life it's too easy to get into your own head, oblivious to your surroundings, lost in your own sense of self. I think that's where I was when my Father asked me too help him with Mom, to spend time with her. I had already decided not to move away because of her Alenheimers diagnosis despite my discontent with the area , but at that time I didn't make enough of an effort to actually do things with her. I was busy with work- a place that sucked up most of my energy and life- and drank way too much to numb my feelings. There wasn't much of me to give , or so I thought, so I had just continued on my self destructive cycle of work, drink, hangover, then starting all over again.
But this was an opportunity to do something- for her, for myself, for us, I decided we would start a new tradition: one day a week we would have an adventure. No matter how big or small, we would (or rather I would) make plans and spend the day together.
This was our new thing, like our old thing, but better. Because this time, I would savor it. Relish the moments. There was no telling how many more we would have.
Mostly, we would go to lunch and a movie. She always was up for a movie. As her disease progressed she lost interest in reading which had always been her greatest escape and comfort until her memory retention beacame so bad she would stare at the same page for months, rereading it until she stopped bothering to try. Television didn't interest her in the slightest- nothing seemed to engage her on the idiot box. The fact my Dad generally kept it on news channels or sports probably factored into that initially, but later I don't think it really mattered what was on the small screen. In her later days she spent many a day sitting quietly in her spot on the loveseat , waiting for someone or something to entertain her until she slipt away to sleep while sitting straight up ( a talent she had had since I remembered).
For some reasonn movies still caught her interest, and she would always ask, "What are we going to do now? Can we go to the movies?" Maybe it was the size of the screen or the loudness from the speakers, but those early days she really seemed to get into it. I took her to see everything- every genre, it didn't matter . She clapped at the end of Man of Steel, cried during 12 Years a Slave, grinned at The Hobbit- An Unexpected Journey. She seemed to delight in titles that had some earlier connection in her life- whether from a book or a film she had been familiar with. Those moments, coupled with the times I found someplace she liked to eat (her tastes had changed drastically and former favorite foods held no interest for her), I would consider those moments a grand success.
Our days weren't strictly filled with movies. We also went to the Zoo (Great time, but she worried despite my assurances of the contrary that we would get lost,), shopping, wherever as long as it was together. Sometimes we would jist take walks around our yard to admire the many beautiful plants and flowere our kindhearted landscapers Tom and Roger had planted (They did an amazing job at planting and grooming our yard for a tradeout in food, but really I think we got the best side of the bargain. They did it out of love for my parents). This was the simple time, yet so meaningful to her. I know she missed her long walks with her dogs in Cassine Gardens next door. That had always been her special place to gather her thoughts and commune with God. Her energy had flagged in her waning years and it was just not possible for her anymore.
So the treks around our yard had to suffice.
Her last year on earth we continued our weekly adventures to varying degrees of success. We walked out of several movies (Thickheaded, I finally got the hint when she repeatedly would ask me if I was enjoying whatever we were watching) and sometimes she just didn't feel like going anywhere.I was convinced she spent so much time sitting that all she needed was for me to drag her places and she would get excercise. That was not the case. The ravages of the disease were attacking her muscles and leaving her weak.
One day I took her to lunch at Longhorn (she would love a petite sirloin which I would cut up for her- her hands had forgotten how to cut meat.) and then to Target- I didn't really need anything but we had missed our window for the movie we were supposed to see and I was determined we were going to do something that day. Anything.. I prided myself on my patience with my Mother, but that day it was wearing thin. We had gotten to a late start because it took her a long time to get ready and then lunch seemed to take forever.
No sooner than we got through the doors , she said she was tired and wanted to go home.
I grumbled at her as we turned and made our way back to the car. Her gait was slow and awkward and I exageratedly slowed my pace to match her speed. all the while browbeating her. "Okay, you wanna go home now? Is that what you want? Will that make you happy?" I said brusquely, though in my mind I think I hear it more harsh than she did.
I opened her car door and helped her inside and stomped over to my side and slipped in. As I put on my seatbelt, I noticed a woman, somewhere in her thirties, walking with purpose directly towards my car. I turned away and helped Mom on with her seatbelt, only to be startled by a gentle rapping on my window.It was the lady from across the parking lot. My heart sank- I just knew she had heard me talking down to my Mother, that she was going to be critical of my behavior, and I felt about two feet tall. She motioned for me to roll down my window which I did so grudgingly, preparing to be dressed down.
"Yes?" I said, waiting for the blow.
She looked at me with kind eyes."God bless you."
My heart stopped. ""What?" I didn't think I herd her correctly.
"God bless you. "She gave a warm smile. : I saw you struggling with your mother- I know what you're going through. You're very good with her. "
I didn't know what to say. I felt so guilty for being irritated with my Mom, and that I had been caught being a dick to her, I was left in bewildered silence. She smiled , said "Have a nice day." , and turned awy and was gone.
My Mother asked me what was wrong. I had begun to cry. I assured her everything was alright. That everything would be alright. But it never was again.
I know we had several trips after that, "adventure days", but that is the last one that truly sticks out in my mind. The weekend in December that she fell and went into the hospital I was sick. My father had left town to visit friends , leaving Mom in my sister and I's care. I had planned to take her to the movies but my sinus infection kept that from happening.
Her last trip was to pass away in the comfort of her home.
It was our last chance for an adventure, and I didn't take it.Of course I have many regrets at letting that chance go by, but now I look back with bittersweet nostalgia, and cherish the adventures we did have.
They were many.
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