|June 8, 1952|
Last summer I was talking to a woman who had been in a women's group with her. We weren't more than a few minutes into our conversation when I realized that other woman was on the verge of tears. She was only a passing acquaintance of my mother but that woman missed my mom so dearly that more than four years later she was crying. It didn't surprise me.
My mother was smart and talented and so, so loving. So inclusive. So kind that you couldn't help but know you were her favorite, whether you were her second daughter or the newcomer she sat down next to in church.
In our family we joke that we should have known she was losing her mind when she started watching Bill O'Reilly's show. That type of hate-mongering exclusivity was simply not in her.
Because she was. She was losing her mind.
Her children didn't know until after she had died that her doctor no longer expected her to show up on the right day; the receptionist had standing orders that whenever Mom arrived, that was when her appointment was. We didn't know that my father awoke from a nap in the passenger seat as mom was taking her turn driving, and discovered she was driving at high speed down the grass median between northbound and southbound lanes of the interstate. We did know that she seemed to be slipping, and we worried.
My mother had seen her own mother go through this dehumanizing process that cruelly stripped an otherwise healthy body of intellect and left Grandma worried and inconsolable. Mom was so afraid of this, that she would lose her faculties and her dignity. So when she fell in the garage at age 78 and suffered a head injury that was traumatic and eventually took her life, we smiled through our tears. God's grace, right there, saving her from what to her was a fate literally worse than death.
I've written about all this before. What I haven't written about is that it is both a gift and a curse to be her daughter.
What a gift--do you have any idea what it was like to have my mom in my corner? As my role model? My cheerleader? My person? If I could have waved a magic wand and been anything at all, I would have been exactly like her--I wore her wedding dress when Husband and I got married.
But now that I've turned 60, I worry that I am too much like her. When I arrive at baccalaureate late because I thought it started at 10:30 instead of 10, I wonder--is this normal? Or is this It? When I make a mistake in a news release--is this normal? Or is this It? Are my slip-ups and mental lapses everyday stress and over-busyness, or a sign of something more ominous? Normal or It?
It is not a given that I will inherit my mother's and my grandmother's Alzheimer's. Grandma was one of five children and the only one who became senile. My mother's sisters and brother are all sharp as tacks.
Maybe in a few years science will know what causes and cures this evil deterioration, and all of my siblings and I will be spared. If not, though, and I'm the one who wins this anti-lottery, I'm sorry for the grief it will cause my family.
I know how we worried about my mother after she turned 60, and I am her daughter.