When I was twelve, my single parent dad remarried. I was ecstatic beyond belief. My new stepmom was warm, caring, and fun-loving. Best of all, she was the first parent I’d ever had who wanted the job. It didn’t matter that most of the other kids in seventh grade thought it was babyish to hang all over their parents. I proudly held my new mom’s hand everywhere we went. I never wanted to let it go.
And in lots of ways, I never have. For decades of my adult years, my mom was my closest female friend and confidante. In frequent phone calls, we shared problems, exchanged book lists, and laughed a lot. Every summer without fail, my children and I traveled to Connecticut to visit her. These visits remain among my children’s (and my own) fondest memories.
Somehow, I thought until one of us kicked off, things would always be like this. I’d be able to pick up the phone and discuss politics or books or personal stuff with my mom. Every summer we’d swim in the pool at her condo and then solve the world’s problems over a glass of wine.
But in her late eighties, things began to change. My mom couldn’t remember what we’d discussed only moments ago. She grew increasingly paranoid, anxious, and fragile. Eventually, my sisters and I moved her into an assisted living place in Boston where most of our family lives.
I miss my mom. Even when I’m physically with her, it’s not the same. She has a limited number of topics she discusses and questions she asks which play and replay over and over again. I do my best to entertain her with anecdotes about my family and life—none of which she recalls five minutes later.
But recently, I was reminded that until she no longer remembers who I am, the connection between us remains strong. During a visit with my sister, nephew, and me, I sensed her withdrawing from us. I was pretty sure she was feeling left out and frustrated by her hearing problems and difficulty in following our conversation. I got up and went and sat on the floor next to her chair and leaned my head close to her. She smiled, flung her arm around me and patted my back over and over.
I closed my eyes and sighed contentedly. In that moment, it was so comforting to know that I could make my mom feel better, and she could do the same for me. Once again, I basked in the glow of her warmth and attention. She was still my mom.