I received the usual mass text from my younger sister, notifying me and our other siblings that she had picked up Mom, so we could each call to talk to her.
You see my mother, my wonderful mother, just turned 80 this year and I consider myself to be blessed to have received her love for the past 51 years. I often boast about the fact that I never once had an argument with her. Not once, in all of my life. Sure, I disagreed with her, but we discussed it, never arguing. I guess it’s due in part to the bible (I DO honor my father and mother) and fear of my dad, who would crack my forehead if I ever disrespected his or her position and authority. And now that he’s a loving memory, having passed away 20 years ago, I still comply with his teachings. Not because he said them, but because I know they were the right things to do.
The good thing is that before my father moved on, I was fortunate enough to tell him how much I loved him and say goodbye, without actually saying “goodbye”. I knew my time with him was not forever and running out, so during my last visit, I told him exactly how much I loved him and how much I appreciated who and what he was to me. Now, I have no regrets.
My mother is a bit of a different story. Physically, she’s in perfect health and in better condition than many people younger than her, me included. The downside? She suffers form Dementia. So how does that affect me/us? We have to watch her struggle with memory loss, no longer recalling milestone events in life. Not knowing what she talked about 10 minutes ago. Not knowing the names of my family members. Forgetting who I am. When I went to visit her Memorial Day weekend, I saw a bedroom with a wall, layered with pictures of family members and names. When she saw me and I told her who I was, she gave me a loving face of childhood innocence, then opened her arms to hug me. She didn’t recognize me and I really didn’t recognize her, the woman that held me – but I held her close, nonetheless.
And it was a wonderful visit, taking her to my sister’s house so the entire family of 4 generations could celebrate her birthday.
Since that visit, every time I call, I spend the majority of the conversation reminding her who I am and that I did get married and that I have four sons, who I have to name and tell her about. Trust me when I say that it’s painful and I struggle with tears every time I talk to her. Now I understand what Oliver Platt’s character was going through when he talked to his dementia-stricken mother on the phone in the disaster movie “2012”. Sadly, every time we close out I finally lose it, knowing the woman I talked to was my mother, but not.
Today, something different happened. When I called my sister, just before she handed my mother the phone, I asked her how mom’s memory was. She answered that she wasn’t sure because she’d just picked her up. So I did the usual and mentally prepared myself.
Once on the phone, she opened with a resounding and hearty “HellOOOOooooo!” (JUST LIKE MOMMA USED TO GREET ME!) I replied, “Momma?” to which she answered, “YES, Kenny!” Even her voice was deeper and fuller like I remember and less child-like. It had that familiar throaty silkiness to it. I screamed her name again, just before covering my mouth in efforts to maintain my composure.
And we talked, just like old times. Just like OLD TIMES!!! No, she didn’t remember everything, but she knew enough. And her half of the conversation? Structured, wise, experienced, God-fearing and loving. It was everything I’d missed and everything I’d cherished. Everything I thought I’d lost for the remainder of her days, and mine.
I was talking to MOMMA! QUEEN MOTHER!
What did we talk about? Well, that’s between me and her. All I want you to know is that it was familiar, it was blessed and it was WONDERFUL!!! Even when our conversation got interrupted by an incoming call on my sister’s phone, Momma was able to field the other call and then tell my sister that “Kenny” was still on the line. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for blessing me with a talk with Momma.
What I WILL share with you is that a great deal of the time was spent telling her how much I loved and cherished her and how much her presence and involvement set the standard for me over the years:
- What to look for in a woman.
- How to respect a woman.
- How to treat a woman.
- How to appreciate a woman.
- How to support my woman in our combined efforts to raise a family.
- How to love a woman, what she would expect of me, and so much more.
And when we closed out, I wept again, only this time, in immeasurable elation. I shouted out and cried, thanking God over and over. Giving praise for His charity and touching my mother with memory and the ability to talk with her once again, just like old times.
I don’t know if I’ll get to have another conversation like that again. If so, I don’t know how many times. What I DO know is that I didn’t waste a second of it and if I’m fortunate to enjoy another, I will cherish and milk every moment.
But for now, I just smile because I had a talk with Momma…
…the woman I remember.