"Get me out of here -- you know I can't stand old people and cripples!" -- I experienced my first utter humiliation after becoming a Mom to My Mom. We went for a simple visit to the adult day care center at the Older Persons Center in Rochester, MI. Supposedly one of the top rated facilities in the country. My normally demure Mother did not wait until we had a private minute, she robustly vocalized this statement loudly in front of the director of the program, the staff and most mortifying of all, the participants! I was embarrassed, disgraced and tried to remember what I had done to her as toddler that perhaps led to this retribution.
I also wondered what happened to her sense of grace, and what the hell happened to her math skills? (She spent a career at Chrysler in accounting.) She was undeniably older than almost everybody at the center that day.
In Florida she and my Dad hung out with people easily 20 years younger, but she has to know she's aging... Doesn't she???
Shortly after she told me I was one of her best friends. Well, I hope so, but I felt the need to remind her that I was also her daughter. She vehemently claimed she never had children.
We now have had this discussion repeatedly. Each time I tell her, in bedtime story format, that she met a wonderful man when she was 40, married at 41, had me at 42 and my sister at 44. Each time she's filled with a sense of wonder and awe that she just may really be my Mom. When I remind her that's why I call her Mom, she usually buys the story. (For the record, there are times, usually during midday, when she remembers she has daughters all on her own.)
I recently pulled out old photos to reinforce her maternal history with me. She lit up at a photo from my first birthday and even said "there's my baby!" I was so excited. Progress. "See, you do remember. That was my first birthday," I said. She looked at me quizzically. "Now, come on -- how could I remember that?! I would have been what, two?!"
Oh, the comedian! And, oh, my frustration! I would LOVE to know how old she thinks she is. I ask all the time, but she's clever enough not to answer. She knows she doesn't know. But she's positive I'm a practical joker when I insinuate she's 87. I periodically ask questions to help narrow down her current mental age. If she doesn't remember having me, she's at best in her 30's. One time when we were coloring (a new favorite activity) she said "If anyone came in and saw us right now they'd think we were crazy. Us being done with high school and practically in college." She often introduces me as her sister, but at what age???
Back to the adult day care center. I immediately found the opportunity to vocalize my concerns and an apology, privately -- straight to the director. I realized I really needed their center. I went there because I couldn't provide all the stimulation she needed single-handedly at home. I wanted my Mom to participate in singing, exercise, and arts and crafts classes. Now I knew our need was far more urgent. She won't be able to stay with me forever and she is going to have to start getting acclimated to being around people her own age. Her real age. Donna, a saint, explained the behavior was normal (for lack of a better word) and even let me in on a huge secret -- half the people there think they're "volunteers", strictly on site to help others. Viola! I signed my Mom up immediately to be a volunteer in the program. (2009 note: it took several tries, over the course of a year, but she now attends regularly.)
With the day care center enrollment worked out, I honestly don't know why I'm so concerned with trying to unravel my mom's current mental age. On the positive side, if she's not 40 yet, than neither am I -- I can roll with that. Thank you Mom, not only for the gift of life -- but now helping me shave a few years off!