When I visit her in late summer, she seems so less of what she used to be. Because of dementia, she can’t remember what I told her five minutes earlier, like “your clean clothes are in the drawer” or “dinner is in 45 minutes.”
Seconds after the conversation, my once bright, quick mom asks: “where are my clean socks?” and then “isn’t it time to walk down to the dining room?”
But when I direct mom to her floral comfy couch and open up the big battered black album, the one that sat in the bottom of her hope chest for decades, her dulled eyes brighten, and she sits up straighter.
We open the book and check out the black and white photos of her and my dad in the late ‘40s, including their wedding picture. A smile, a sigh as we peruse photos of dad in his uniform with his paratrooper buddies and mom with the guys’ girlfriends and wives.
“Oh my gosh, there’s Sally,” she declares, voice suddenly firm and strong. “Sally Andrews. She was so beautiful, and god she made me laugh. Her fiancé, Bill, adored her.” Mom pauses, and adds, “Sally never got over Bill. He died the last year of the war.”
Then we move on to photos from the 1950s and 60s. My mom chuckles and states, “I remember that Thanksgiving. The turkey fell on the floor. I ‘rinsed’ it off with my dishtowel and never told a soul.”
More photos, more smiles and memories, until the sky darkens, and my mom’s mind meanders to places I can’t see and she can’t describe.
Tomorrow, after the seven-hour drive to her assisted-living facility, I’ll show her the albums from my college years and the decade after.
Maybe mom will help me remember the names of those long-ago friends. And hopefully she’ll relive her days of wine and roses.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream. (Ernest Dowson -1867-1900).