It's only the 3rd of January and already I've had the best day of the year.
I felt kind of guilty not going to see my mother on the 1st, to wish her a happy new year. I knew she wouldn't know it was the new year, but still, I enjoyed sitting at home and vegetating. I made cookies and so had a big batch and was able to share them with Ashley when she came to check on Polly, who seemed to be sick all day yesterday, but who was fine this morning. Amazing what rubbing Karo syrup on her gums to boost her blood sugar level can do!
But when the 2nd came around, I knew I had to go to Atria. She would not have any idea how long it had been since I'd seen her, but I did. She wouldn't be needing meds yet and she could go a few more days on dirty laundry, so this was just to be a visit.
And it started like all visits. She didn't realize it was January. Is it cold outside? The trees are bare. She's old. She can't remember how old she is but it must be nearly 100. She hasn't done anything exciting. She can't remember if she ate lunch or not. What am I doing tonight that's exciting? (asked several times) This is pretty much the extent of our conversation, over and over again, every time I visit her.
The last time I saw her, the day before New Year's Eve, she told me that she didn't know why, but she had been dreaming a lot about her mother. She went through a period several months ago where she dreamed about her and would wake up and see her, until she got fully awake, and then missed her when she was gone. I wondered, then, if my grandmother was coming to take her last daughter home with her.
I asked her if she had been dreaming about her mother again and she said no, she had not. She mused again that she didn't know how her mother did it, raising 10 children.
Then I asked her a magic question. It was like I'd found the key to open a firmly locked box. I asked her what her mother did to discipline all those kids.
She started talking. She told me that her mother never spanked her children, but would find a way to let them know how displeased she was. She'd take away something they wanted to do or something like that.
She went on to talk about her siblings, how she herself never got punished much because she was pretty well behaved but her her next oldest sister, Marge (Peach's mother) was always the one who got into trouble. She said she thought Marge went out of her way to find bad things to do just to get attention.
She talked about her youngest sister, Barb (who died of Alzheimers several years ago) and how she was everyone's pet because she was the youngest.
She told me again how when her father was asked why they had such a large family he always replied "because I loved your mother so much I couldn't keep my hands off of her."
She talked about her older sisters, who were grown and out of the house by the time she was born (she was #8 in a family of 10). Her sister Mel was actually pregnant at the same time that my grandmother was pregnant with my mother and her son (who was killed in an auto accident at age 5) was born a few months before my mother.
She talked about how all the kids loved Mel and how exciting it was for her to come home and visit because she always brought goodies for all the kids.
She also talked about how everybody was afraid of Marie, Mel's next youngest sister. I told her that I remembered the very first family reunion umpteen years ago when my mother told Marie she had always been afraid of her, which surprised Marie.
We talked about her oldest brother Jim and how everybody adored him and I recalled being so excited to get a wedding gift from him because I loved him so much and it was going to be something very special to me, but when I opened it it was a banged up silver bowl that his alcoholic wife had bought at a second hand store.
I don't know how long we chatted about her childhood and her siblings but it was like old times and then, suddenly, as if a switch had been turned off, she gazed out the window and sighed and said "I'm old, Bev..." and we were back into bare trees and what am I doing exciting tonight.
But for one brief shining moment, she was back. It was the best day of 2016. It is wonderful that this terrible disease has not yet robbed her of her memories of childhood. They are as fresh and shining as if she is reliving them.