Friday, October 17, 2014

The gift of old age

My heart cracked in half tonight. While talking to Mom on the phone, I realized just how bad her memory is getting. She recalled a time in our lives when I was already grown and married and asked me who was babysitting me. I gulped and felt a huge lump forming in my throat.

Where are you going, Mom? I want to find you. I want to find the woman you once were, so quick-witted and sassy. Nobody, but nobody could pull the wool over your eyes. Now, I think the wool has gathered and taken away so much.

She talked about a beloved doll someone had brought her one Christmas. The memories of childhood all too close now. Memories from a few minutes ago, gone and forgotten, but the past is here to stay. She could vividly describe the beautiful doll, the satin snowsuit, the fur muff. I could all but see it as she went on about how much that toy had meant to her. My heart cracked just a little further. . .

What is this, the gift of older age? For perhaps it is just that. Mom had sadness in her life as well. And maybe just maybe it's not such a bad thing to forget some of the pain she went through at the hands of an abusive mother or alcoholic father. Her innocent, childlike ways may just be a blessing in disguise as she recalls silly songs, movies and books she read.

I count myself lucky that she knows who we all are, our close family who has been through so much together through the years. She still cooks and bakes, and all these things are good. Though I yearn for my mother's listening ear, and I miss the times I could call her and tell her about some infraction that had gone on, or share an exciting story from my day knowing she would have just the right words to say, I now must embrace the fact that our conversations have changed. For now she repeats and we've all heard the stories before. The attention span is gone, replaced by what almost feels to be a self-centered way of speaking. But we understand, my family and I. And we keep our sense of humor intact. We love, we laugh, we cry. We embrace the gift, grateful for every day we still have with Mom.

Oh, and the reason for the picture I took of a butterfly in a flower? My Mom loves butterflies. I think to her they represent freedom, imagination and God. She's often told a story of standing at the kitchen window when she was younger, completely distraught over something that had happened. She cried out to God for a sign, "Please, God, if you're there, please show me a butterfly. You know I always think of You when I see one." Not a few seconds later, but the most beautiful Monarch butterfly flew outside the window and stayed for the longest time as if dancing for her. That, my friends is a true gift.

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