As Mom said repeatedly, “It’s not fun to get old.” Mom turned 94 last Monday. For her age, her health is not too bad, but as a neurologist once told me, “We can do a lot to fix the body, but we cannot stop the brain from aging.” This is Mom’s reality. She is outliving her brain.
We spent three days with her. I would be less than honest if I said the visit was fun. It is very tiring to answer the same questions and hear the same stories or complaints over and over again. She also struggled to remember the names of her children and grandchildren. It was painful and very emotional to witness Mom’s dementia up close and personal, because, though our relationship has had its ups and downs, I love my Mom. I will forever appreciate that she was the glue that held our family together when my Dad died at 49 years old. Like so many Moms, she continues to live her life for her kids, grandchildren and recently for her new great-grandbaby.
Samantha is my granddaughter and, of course, she is PERFECT. She is 9 months old and only gets more and more A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E! Her awesome Mom, my daughter Julie, made a special effort to bring Sammy and join us in Pittsburgh to celebrate Mom’s 94th! Julie burned a lot of calories to transport Sammy from Newark to the ‘Burgh. When I picked them up curbside at the airport, Julie was managing singlehandedly a car seat, stroller, a suitcase and a baby bag, while carrying Sammy in a front-facing baby carrier attached to her chest. Amazingly, Julie was in great spirits. It reminded me as to why it is a good idea to have children when we are young. At my age, if I had to lug around all that stuff, my body would quickly rebel and I would collapse in exhaustion.
When we arrived at Mom’s apartment, the effort Julie made to bring Sammy to see her great-grandma was rewarded. Mom does not have too much to smile about these days. She spends hours alone and is not able to get around as much as she would like, but the minute Samantha arrived she broke into a smile, a smile that returned every time Sammy was in her presence. She also was able to show Samantha off to her friends in the dining room and watch with delight as Julie and Sammy played on her apartment floor. When the baby was napping and Mom and I were alone, Mom would REPEATEDLY remind me that Sammy was “such a good baby.” Then, she said, “She never cries.” Samantha, however, did cry, not too often or for very long, primarily because Julie was so attentive to her needs, but she did cry. Mom just forgot.
Samantha and Julie made my Mom’s 94th birthday extra-special. It was a celebration we will always remember, even if Mom does not. The day after we arrived home, I called Mom to check in. As I suspected, she did not remember much about the previous three days, but the minute I mentioned Samantha, she recalled every precious moment she had with her. The same thing happened again just a few minutes ago. I called Mom. She did not remember we were with her in Pittsburgh, but she repeated joyfully her “Sammy” memories. I guess there are some memories that simply do not “age” away. Thank God!
John E. Holt, Cotuit, Massachusetts