Friday, August 26, 2011


Yesterday I wrote a story about one of the benefits of getting older, that being the joy of reconnecting with old friends from youth. Today I am in a more somber mood with a sober realization.
My mother is dying.
Mom has dementia and it is eventually going to take her life. A few years back it started to show, as she became increasingly forgetful. In fact I wrote a story back in 2008 about her and referenced this behavior -

Sadly, in the time between then and now, it has gotten much worse. Her world is progressively shrinking as a result of her diminishing mental capacity. My mother is the most intelligent person I know. Much of what I am is a direct result of what she has instilled in me. Traits such as integrity, honesty, intelligence, courtesy…all came from her. I used to revel in our conversations about world affairs, politics, the Cleveland Browns. She was always insightful and always made me think. She also taught me how to disagree without being disagreeable. Unfortunately, I fall short of the ideals she set, but that does not in any way diminish her impact on me. She still remains the prototype of selflessness. She is, literally a saint. And when she leaves us the world will be a crueler place.
I just got back from a trip to Ohio where I was able to spend a lot of time with her. It was heartbreaking. Those conversations about world affairs? Gone. Receiving thoughtful advice on how to deal with this sometimes dragging dirge we call life? Gone. These days our conversations tend to go like this:
Mom: What day is it today?
Me: It’s Wednesday, mom.
Mom. Oh that’s right. When does your flight leave?
Me: Tomorrow, mom.
Mom: Oh that’s right. What day is it today?
Mom is now 84 years old, and due to being a lifetime smoker (and she still smokes) her body has been ravaged. She is extremely frail, about 90 pounds. But to me, the physical deterioration is nothing in comparison to the degeneration of her mind. Mom was an accountant, and as you could imagine, had that mathematical acuity accountants are known for. These days she cannot even process paying her bills. Imagine that for a moment - an accountant unable to no longer manage her finances. That’s how far she has regressed. Her phone service has been shut off twice because she simply forgot to pay the bill.
I hate this disease. Hate it. It has taken my mother…but she’s still here, and that is the tragedy of it. That frail old lady who sits in her easy chair crocheting and listening to The Golden Girls with the volume up way too loud is still my mom, but her essence is gone. What is left is a shell of a person, robbed of what made her her.

One of these days I will appear at her door and she is going to ask who I am. She will forget me.
So I hate to say this, because it sounds cruel, but when she dies it will almost be a relief.
Because, honestly, she left us a long time ago.

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