Monday, May 17, 2010

What Will I Remember?

My Mom's had some pretty rough days lately, which reminds me that this disease of dementia will progress. Some day it will be time to transition to a home and one day she won't be here any more.
I'm positive she'll go to heaven, so when I contemplate her final days it's not in a morbid or sad way. In fact, the thing that plagues me is actually pretty funny. I wonder exactly how and when her brain will kick back into gear. When someone with a debilitating illness passes, the comment is always "well, she won't be in pain anymore," right? So I'm wondering, when exactly will my Mom be free of the faulty brain wiring?
I'm assuming when she gets to the pearly gates she'll be greeted by and actually recognize my Dad, her sisters and brother, her parents and all the great friends she has had in her life. I'm counting on the fact that she'll know she's in the presence of God and be rewarded by the peace and glory of the afterlife. But then I'm wondering, if after she absorbs the awe of it all, will she wonder where the hell she's been for the last 10 years?
Will God give her recharged brain a quick replay to show her the great care my Dad provided in Florida, then the big move to Michigan when she came to live with me? I'd love to see the look on her face when she discovers she became an animal lover and the life of a party with her singing and dancing. I wonder if she'll be as perplexed as we are over where she came up with the song "High Jokes the Kiltee" and how it has become her signature song?

My other big question is, how will I remember her? What will be my lasting image of My Mom?
A friend echoed the sentiment of so many people the other night when he said that I will never regret caring for my Mom. It's true. I already cherish every minute spent with my Mom in these new conditions -- on so many different levels. But if I'm completely honest, mostly our time together fills the void of never having my own children. She's my toddler and I thoroughly embrace and even nurture her childlike qualities. I don't see her often as my Mother any more.
So, I can't help but wonder how will I recall her after she passes...
Will I remember the woman that walked out the door each morning dressed in a power suit carrying a cup of coffee in one hand and a purse in the other, one of the few working Mom's of her day? Will I remember what a great athlete she was, so proud bringing home golfing trophies even late into life? Or even how excited she was when her girls were old enough to buy gifts for her on their own so she'd get a great new golf outfit for Mother's Day rather than fuzzy animal head covers from my Dad?
Right this minute I don't remember that woman very well. Even when I look at old pictures I have trouble remembering my Mom for who she once was.
For once, I'm living in the moment and my moment right now is looking at the water color picture she brought home from daycare today. It's sloppy, with way too much paint in one area and hardly any in another. We critiqued the artwork driving home tonight. She knew it wasn't good. I assured her that was the charm of watercolors. I even took her new found art ambitions seriously and told her if she wanted to paint more deliberately, she should switch to oils. She agreed and ultimately embraced her latest creation.

So, will these new moments be the memories I cherish the rest of my life? Will my refrigerator be filled with pictures that look like they were created by a 3-year-old? Or will I eventually box these new achievements away and return to remembering my Mom's amazing accomplishments from days gone past? Maybe time will be the great equalizer and allow me to recall all the facets of our amazing, evolving relationship with the same intensity.
I hope so, but I really don't know.
I do know one thing. Even though images of my former Mom aren't as strong as I'd like them to be, there's no question I've taken on the job of caregiver because of the woman she was and the woman she molded me to be -- I'll never forget that.

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