Mother Knows Best

A favorite photo from several years ago, before Mother’s dementia diagnosis.

Back in January 1922 my parents were born four days apart. My father in Bell, California, and my mother in Tula, Mississippi. They would meet several years later at elementary school when my father’s family returned to its southern roots, and they married in 1948.

Although there were balloons and decorations and cake for my mother on her birthday earlier this month, she would not have known it was her day unless someone had made a fuss. Her dementia robs her of a lot, such as keeping up with dates and important life events. She sometimes thinks her parents have just died and that she wasn’t able to get to their funerals. I hate this for her, that her mind is not only failing her but is also tricking her, goading her into thinking she failed her parents. When, in reality, she was a devoted and faithful daughter until the very end, when she saw her mother and father across the bar and into the ground at St. Peter’s Cemetery in Oxford, Mississippi.

So she loses memories and facts, but she retains her grace, and her humor, and her kindness.

At Christmas I held her hand while we watched part of “Miracle on 34th Street,” which I had never seen and for some reason insist on referring to as “Miracle on 51st Street.” I left after Santa was put in the hoosegow, so it is my fervent hope that the poor man got sprung before the movie was over.

When I arrived that day at the residential facility where she lives, she was resting in her chair with her eyes closed. I sat on the edge of her bed and waited for her to wake up. When she did, she took a few seconds to stare at me with love.

“I recognize you,” she said, smiling.

Her eyes were clear and lively, not dulled as they can sometimes seem when she is having a harder time focusing and engaging. It was the same smile I have seen on her precious face countless times before, an upturn of her lips that let me know she is still my mother.

4 responses to “Mother Knows Best”

  1. Hi Amy, My husband and I have been caring for my 92 year old mother-in-law also with dementia. We just finished a full year of care and I know exactly the feelings you share in your piece. They are still there and it’s wonderful when those really special moments happen of recognition. Even when mom doesn’t recognize me, she seems to know I am a trustful and loving person in her life. We believe plenty of hugs and kisses make-up for the lost memory. What a wonderful photo of you and your mother.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting, Neighbor Nancy. I love the idea that our loved ones with dementia might still know we are “trustful and loving.” I’ll try to remember that the next time I see Mother. I confess I dread the day when I don’t catch even a glimpse of recognition in her eyes, but with people like you shoring me up I’ll get through that. Surely there have been things already that some of us thought we might not survive, and yet here we stand.

  2. I thought about her birthday a week late. I guess we all forget sometimes.

    1. Not to worry, Juanita. Mother had a fine birthday, even if she was unaware of the day’s significance. Thank you for continuing to hold her in your heart.