Endearments

Ruth takes in the tulips behind our house in West Oakland. Dementia makes it hard for her to remember her children, but Momma's love for this beautiful tree endures. By Jo Ann Bell

My 3 siblings and I often become fictional or rearranged members of Momma’s imagination. Momma once told my youngest brother that he was “found by grandpa at the poker game.”

I loved it when she said to me, with wide-eyed earnestness, “I want you to remember you are just like a member of the family. Don’t you ever forget that.”

To my further delight, when I was reminding her about who was who at a recent family gathering, she told me that my middle and older brothers weren’t her children. “No, those can’t be my sons. Not those old men. Not with all that gray hair. What are you talking about?”

I have often become her mom and her twin-sister, but never her daughter. When I would pick her up at the Alzheimer’s Day Center, the other clients would yell out “Ruth! Your mother’s here!”

What’s a caregiver to do? I imagine these pictures in her mind are safe places for her to retreat. Maybe she remembers and wishes to my brothers and I tucked away safely in her head as little snot-nosed kids begging for attention. Sometimes I tell myself that’s why she can’t picture herself with children who are now graying adults.

Maybe Momma is on to something. Those were indeed carefree days for all of us. And when things get hard here with Mz. Ruth, looking back is for me like a little daydream vacation.

One Comment

  1. Dawn

    You are an AMAZING writer. Kept my attention the entire time! Love your blog, keep up the great work Jo Ann

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