The day is coming, probably sooner than I would like, when my mother won’t know who I am.
I’m braced for it. I have promised myself that I won’t fall apart... at least, not in front of her. I’ll wait until I’m out in the parking lot, and then I’ll probably cry until I’m calm again.
We stopped by the nursing home she’s in this evening on our way home to Central Texas, and when I greeted her, she sat up with a smile, happy to have visitors. Even though at first, she had no idea who we were, just that we were family.
We all said hello, and I sat down next to her and took her hand after helping her get her glasses on, and I could see her staring at my face, trying to get some sense of recognition. So I said, “Do you know who I am?”
She smiled and said, “Yes, I do. You’re Carol... no, wait... you’re Jo.”
A lot of people who haven’t see us for a few years usually mistake me for my middle sister. A few might mistake me for my oldest sister. Carol and I share a lot of personality traits, and facial expressions, but she’s fair, blonde, and green-eyed, and I’m olive, auburn, and brown-eyed. So it’s not that far out of the way that Mom would guess I’m Carol first.
Except she’s my mom, and in her normal state of mind, she’d never make that sort of mistake.
In her normal state of mind.
I hugged her and said, “Yes, I’m Jo!” and proceeded to chat with her, and have the kids sit with her and visit, but I could see that she had no real idea who I was. Just... that I was family. That I was one of her daughters. But... she didn’t know me.
It wasn’t until we were leaving, and I had hugged her and said, “I love you, Mom.”
She said, “I love you, too.” Then something seemed to spark in her mind and she stared at me intently. “I love you,” she said as I stepped back to the curtain divider. “I love you... like... a bush.. and ... and a.. pickle. A peck.”
I felt tears sting my eyes, and I sang, “A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.”
She joined in. “A hug around the neck, and a barrel in the heap. A barrel in the heap and I’m talking in my sleep about you, about you...”
“Jo,” she said with a huge smile and recognition in her eyes. “There you are. There’s my baby. That’s my girl, my little Jo. My tomboy.”
I fought back tears and kept singing. “I love you, a bushel and a peck, you bet your pretty neck I do. Toodle oodle oodle, toodle oodle oodle, toodle oodle doodley doo!”
I hugged her again, and she whispered, “You’re my baby, and I’ll never forget my baby.”
“I know, Mom,” I whispered back. “I love you.”
I left, and I had tears running down my face, but I held it together all the way home, until now.
That day is coming, when even singing what my daughter used to call affectionately “The Grandma Song,” won’t fire off the right neurons in Mom’s mind. I’m going to hate that day. But... I think I’ll get through it.