Wednesday, August 10, 2011

That man....

Please understand that this post is written for me, not for you. Sometimes it helps to put things in writing....

I visited my family in Indiana earlier this week. I had a great visit with my brother Tom, and then drove to Terre Haute where my brother, Dick, and his wife Donna care for my mother. First of all, bless 'em for their efforts. It takes special people to care for others when their health or life circumstances become challenging. My mom is 92 and in good health for a 92-year-old. Unfortunately her dementia has resulted in the disappearance of the person I knew as my mother.

My Mom's disappearance was not immediately obvious. She is a consummate faker, able to seem like she knows what's going on and to respond appropriately. She was thus delighted to see me, though she couldn't say my name. I showed her pictures of the house and family, and explained who everyone was. She really enjoyed the photos of the flowers and blooming trees from our yard. Later that evening she asked if I were tired and needed to go to bed. Given the 3-hour time difference, I wasn't, but she clearly was. Eventually I went out to the car to get my bags. While I was gone, Mom asked Donna if she could get ready for bed "before that man comes back in here".

Being referred to as "that man" is not hurtful, but it does bring my Mom's condition into sharp relief. Much of who she was is gone. What remains is a shell that deserves care and love, but cannot reciprocate. She can feign gratitude, but then, I know she's faking.

Earlier in the week Sally and I were exploring Louisville, Kentucky. We came across a church that I know was familiar to Mom and Dad. I wished I could give them a call so they could remind me of it's significance in their life. But that story is gone, lost to both memory and significance. I am aware of my mortality, at least intellectually so. But when time smacks us so squarely in the forehead it is still a bit of a shock.

So "that man" left to return to his life and immediate family. I am tempted to attempt recording everything I know, believe and have experienced so that time cannot bring me to a similar end. But that is merely so much vanity. Instead I shall heed the advice of the Preacher and enjoy my life - each precious moment - as the fleeting gift it is. Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die. Even should we not die, we may recall none of it.

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