I visited my mom yesterday. She had the newspaper on her lap and, for once, she opened it to read beyond the headlines on the front page. But she didn’t really understand what she was reading.
“Who is Harvey,” she asked.
“No, mom,” I said. “Harvey isn’t a ‘who’ – it’s a ‘what,'" I answered. And I explained that it was a devastating hurricane that has affected Texas and other states.
She expressed dismay…for about a half a second.
And then she read the headline again – and, once again, asked me about Harvey.
Sometimes I think she surely must be testing me. That she really does remember, but she wonders if I’ll give her the same answer every time she asks.
But, sadly, I know mom truly doesn’t remember. That from moment to moment, her grasp on what is happening is fleeting. When she is in her little room in her rocking chair, she can be as comfortable as possible with her situation. But if we take her out of that comfort zone, she is stressed.
And she doesn’t know what is going to happen next. Or what she is supposed to do. And she very desperately does not want to appear to be incapacitated – and that, I think, is what stresses her the most.
I miss my mom. My old mom. The woman who was strong, intelligent, decisive and had an opinion about everything. Some of which I didn’t agree with. Ha. Okay, so there were many opinions mom had that I didn’t agree with. Funny to think that now I miss having those kinds of discussions with her.
And then I wish I could go back. Back to those days when mom would state an emphatic opinion and I’d just roll my eyes and say, “uh, huh…” If I could go back, I’d try to engage with her – and try to have the lively debate she really wanted to have.
Instead, I’d look at them as confrontations instead of discussions and I avoid confrontations like the plague. I’d end up doing whatever I could to get her focused on something else.
“Hey mom – does this hangnail look infected to you?”
Yeah. Like that worked. That mom knew what I was doing. But most of the time she’d let me change the subject anyway.
Mom had this funny habit. She’d state her opinion in the form of a question. She’d say, “I don’t really like the style of her hair – do you?” And then we were left with the option of either agreeing with her – or disagreeing with her. But we knew what answer we were supposed to choose! And if we disagreed, we knew there would be a debate about it until we came over to her side of the aisle. Sometimes, we’d agree with her just so we wouldn’t have the ensuing debate.
That example was a mild one, though. Mom would have strong opinions about everything – including the “heavy” subjects like politics and religion. And she was well-informed. She read books and newspapers and watched the news. So there were very few current events that mom hadn’t heard about. And there were even fewer subjects she didn’t have a strong opinion about.
Nowadays, devastating hurricanes are beyond her grasp.
I wish I could go back and hear her state an opinion again. About ANYthing. I wish I could go back and cherish even those moments when mom and I disagreed – just because I’d know she was fully engaged in the conversation.
I wouldn’t even use the infected hangnail ruse.