My mother has Alzheimer’s. I called her for Mother’s Day. Just a 3 minute phone call, actually. That length of time would have hardly been enough for hello or goodbye a decade ago, but now it is almost too long for an entire conversation that means nearly nothing.
I can hear the nurse’s aid hand her the phone, explaining what it is and what my mother should do with it. I hear the hand off, the fumbling with the handset, the questions as my mother tries to do as the aid tells her, and then a hoarse rendition of my mother’s voice.
“Hello, how can I help you?”
“Hi, Mom, it’s your daughter Sara,” I say. “I just wanted to wish you a happy Mother’s Day. I love you.”
“I love you too,” she says. “Thank you blah blah blah blah blah blah blah…”
She doesn’t say the blah blahs, exactly, but she strings together words that have no meaning strewn together in apparent sentences tied with phrases such as “we had fun” and “all the moms and dads” and then something along the lines of “well, thank you for calling” as if the call were about to end.
I press on, agreeing with the blah blahs and trying to communicate my love for this woman who birthed me and mothered me and taught me and cheered me and helped me become the woman I am today.
I admit I take solace in that her blather sounds happy and content, but I fail to glean any meaning from her conversation.
Oh, some sensible phrases remain.
“Where are you?” or “How are you?” she asks, for instance.
I start to tell her, and she immediately springs forth with more blah blahs but said with such inflection and emphasis that I think she thinks she is actually communicating and I feel I should know what she is actually saying or meaning or once meant. But I don’t.
And so I reach for the default.
“I love you, Mom.”
“Oh, I love you too,” she automatically responds. It is her default too, and that speaks volumes.
She has loved me well. I will remember that as she remembers less and less — and love her well in return.
And with that we end the almost meaningless conversation. Meaningfully.
In the photo: My sister and I went together to visit my mother at the memory care facility where she lives. We arrived to find her shakily attempting to eat her breakfast and waited a distance away so as not to distract her. No need. We were no distraction as she didn’t recognize who we were. After breakfast, we took her out to the patio and decided to shoot a selfie of the three of us. My mom was absolutely fascinated by the mirror-like attribute of the smart phone, which showed us ourselves as we took the shots. Childlike joy expressed by us all. A precious memory.