Monday, August 2, 2010

a letter to my mother

Dear Mom,
I am sorry that I made you cry today over the phone. Again. If it is any consolation, I made myself cry too. I know that when you dialed the phone this afternoon you didn't remember that just last night you called with all the same questions. You didn't remember the answers I gave you then. I understand that you were just tooling about, living your life, until you came across that bank statement. I understand that you thought that statement was brand new and that you had questions. You know you raised smart daughters. I know you are proud of that. I am too, if we are being honest here. I am smart. So I know, logically, that you cannot remember that you asked me all these questions yesterday. I know that you have no idea that you have called me six times today. You were right, telling me that if I didn't have the time to talk to you then I shouldn't have answered the phone. But what you can't process is that if I hadn't answered you would have kept calling. So either way you were disrupting my work day.

I don't know where you keep finding these bank statements. I swear you must be hiding them in that super human purse you carry with you everywhere you go. I search your room on a pretty regular basis nabbing anything I think will upset you or cause you to call me repeatedly asking the same questions over and over. That's right, Mom. Every chance I get I scour your apartment. Why do you think I stop in during dinner so frequently? It is about the only time you hand over your keys, no questions asked. It is during those moments that I act, furtively, quickly. I feel guilty about it, sure. I would imagine that this is the way parents of a teenager feel when snooping about their offspring's bedroom. You might think that I am delivering  toilet paper or chocolate, but I am on a mission. And I might like to tell myself that I am doing it for you, so you will not keep finding these things to worry about, but that's not entirely true. I am doing it for myself as well.

I think about the future a lot, Mom. I think about our future, yours and mine, together on this fuzzy Alzheimer's journey. I know what to expect. I used to think I was an expert on this disease. I know the ins and outs, what to expect, the stages you will work your way through. I have helped a lot of people move forward in their disease process. But I had no idea, Mom. Will I miss this stage, once you have passed through it? Will I think back fondly to the time when you fought so hard to control your own finances and household? Will the time come that my phone is quiet because you no longer remember the number, or, even worse, you no longer remember me? So I worry that I am not doing all I can for you now. That I am not doing all I can to preserve this time together. I try to assure that you are enjoying as many moments as possible, Mom. Which is why I feel so guilty when I make you cry. You have lost that moment forever. The chance to be happy in that very moment is gone. The good news, I guess, it that later you probably won't remember that I made you cry. Bad joke, I know. See, if it were Dad fighting this losing battle with his memory I would know how to handle it. I could make jokes and he would appreciate them. I could take him to concerts and out places and he would be thrilled. I could set my son down in front of him and he would be in heaven playing with his cars. But you, Mom, well, it's not like we were ever that close. You don't joke, you never have. You don't care about concerts, you care about your checkbook. I guess all those years of having to be the adult, of having to handle your household have created in you the inability to let go.

So, Mom, I understand the questions. I expect them. And I know it is irrational, but your constant questioning makes me feel like a teenager again. I know you ask because you don't remember the answer but it feels as though you ask because you don't trust. Maybe you don't trust, I don't know. Maybe you understand just enough to be just as frustrated as I am. Maybe you resent having to be cared for just as much as I resent having to care for you. Maybe I will try to remember this the next time the phone rings.

Beth (I wonder how long it will be before you start calling me "bethann" again. I shudder at that thought...)

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