My mother’s sister Margaret dropped dead at 84. She was feeding her cat. At the time, I didn’t appreciate what a terrific way to go this was. It was instant. A long time cat person, she was with her beloved kitty. Best of all, right up until the end, she had all her marbles and thoroughly enjoyed her small town life in North Hero, Vermont. A retired school teacher, she volunteered at the local library and her church. She knew and befriended nearly everyone in North Hero. They were her people, and she was theirs.
I envisioned a death like that for my mom. Though she lived in a much larger city, she too became active in volunteer work during her retirement years and developed a great friendship group at church and in her condo community. Well into her eighties, she loved her life.
But now that she’s lived into her nineties, she’s been one of the unlucky ones. Dementia has robbed her piece by piece of her memories, intellect, and vitality.
For several months, my mother’s condition seemed to have plateaued. She couldn’t remember what she’d had for lunch that day or who had visited, but she clearly knew who her family members were and could differentiate us. Lately, though, even that’s been hit or miss. Yesterday, at several points during our daily phone conversation, she called me by my sister Marty’s name and inquired as to how my husband Paul was doing. I carefully explained that I was her daughter Lynn and my husband was Alan. She laughed and said, “Of course you are.” Two minutes later, I was back to being Marty again.
I knew of course that this was bound to happen. Dementia only goes in one direction. But somehow, it was really painful to know that my mom no longer clearly knew who I was.
As I write this, tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I grieve because in so many ways, I’ve already lost my mother. But I’m determined to hold on to my memories of her laughter and warmth and the closeness we shared. It’s made me feel more aware and determined to savor the times I share with my own near and extended family members.
Meantime, I’m crossing my fingers for a demise like Margaret’s. After all, I’m a cat person too.