The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.
–from The Oven Bird by Robert Frost
The majority of my friends no longer have a living mother to celebrate with today. I know that. I am grateful that Mom is alive at 93 and that she was able to spend a few hours with me this afternoon.
Mom was diagnosed with mild dementia about seven years ago. At the time, she was still able to live alone, with some support from me. She drove her car until she was 90. She had a social life centered around our church. Her Christmas card list was longer than mine.
But over the years, the dementia has stolen more of her memory and more of her quality of life. Then, in November, she had a stroke that caused little physical damage but left her memory and speech permanently diminished.
I am fortunate. She remembers me. She also remembers my brother and sister-in-law and a handful of friends that she sees most often. She is one of the highest functioning residents in the memory care unit where she lives.
As one of my friends pointed out today, I am now the one mothering my mother. I, who have no children, am trying to give back to Mom a fraction of what she has given me for 66 years. Sometimes I do fairly well. But not always.
Mom does remember Home Sweet Abbey. Nothing makes her happier than coming home with me for an afternoon. When she sees me arrive to pick her up, after punching in the code to open the door of the locked unit, she claps her hands in glee. We make the five minute drive, and I help her through the door from the garage into my kitchen. Immediately, her eyes begin scanning the room.
She is looking for my cats. For Angie and Shadow, though she doesn’t remember either of their names or which one used to be hers. As we approach them one at a time, I begin whispering Good Kitty, hoping the cat will be receptive to Mom’s persistent petting. Today the girls were fairly cooperative.
Mom found Shadow in one of her favorite napping places in my sunroom.
Then Angie shared the couch with Mom for a while, as we watched old episodes of The Lawrence Welk Show.
While we enjoyed our cookies and ice cream, the sky was darkening ominously. Mom noticed and said, “We’d better go back.” I agreed. It wouldn’t be easy getting her, her gifts, and her walker from the car to the nursing home in the rain and hail that were predicted.
Now, back home, the rain batters my windows and Robert Frost’s question lingers in my mind. What do I make of the diminished thing that was this Mother’s Day? How do I remember the beautiful, sweet, brilliant, loving person my mother was without mourning what she has lost? And what I have lost? And, isn’t it too soon to mourn, anyway? I still have her. Or do I?
Yes, surely, a diminished thing is preferable to nothing. And for that, I am grateful.
Yes, I am grateful.