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You know I don’t think well.

September 14, 2014

On a recent Sunday morning Ryan, Mother, Timber, and I sat in Timber’s Augusta apartment playing guessing game Catch Phrase. We took turns holding a red disc that displays words and phrases belonging to a chosen category. Per the rules whichever team screams out the most correct answers before the timer goes off wins the round; we didn’t keep score, though, and all hollered our guesses for the sake of camaraderie and fun. Mother avoided holding the disc and being plagued with describing keywords from categories like Entertainment, Everyday Life, and The World.

“You know I don’t think well,” she protested when I shoved the disc in her face. “All right, all right, I’ll go with the category Everyday Life,” she rolled her eyes. “Oh! Oh!” she clapped, excited about the term displayed on the screen. “It’s something you do a lot, Bobbin.”

“FART!” I screamed.

“Close!” Mother encouraged me, fanning her butt.

“I love that you immediately knew what she was talking about,” Timber guffawed. “‘Something you do a lot’ could apply to a lot of things, like write, ride your bike, sleep…”

“POOT!” I continued.

“Almost!” Mother reassured me, holding her nose.

“CUT THE CHEESE!” Timber shouted.

“Pass gas?” Ryan quietly shrugged.

“MAKE A STINKY!” I screeched in desperation.

Eventually the timer buzzed.

“No, girls. No!” Mother frowned. “It was Break Wind. Geez!”

During another round that Mother was coerced to lead she bounced on the couch cushion while gripping imaginary horse reins.

“The Lone Ranger!” I thundered.

“No!” she grimaced, alternating between the bouncy horse movement and shaking while hugging herself as though she were freezing to death.

“Hypothermia!” I bellowed.

“No!” she gasped, disappointed in my ignorance. “The answer is Just Chillin’.”

We all howled with laughter.

My father snoozed upstairs in the guest bed, his entire body stretched across the queen-sized mattress, Timber’s orange tabby cat curled against one of his feet. Daddy is half alive and sort of involved in my life, and for the most part I’m accustomed to his absence. But the night before at an Augusta GreenJackets minor league baseball game, I achieved a SweetWater IPA buzz and vocally wished he were there wolfing down a hot dog and leaning back on the bleacher behind us sipping beer. “I want him back,” I slurred at Mother.

“Well it’s not going to happen. Sorry,” she answered, eyes stuck in center field.

Then I realized I want my mother back, too. Alzheimer’s steals its victims and also sucks the life out of overworked caregivers. The other day my mother saw her dermatologist in Atlanta, just a few exits away from my house. When I invited her to stop by for a visit she declined per the anxiety the city’s traffic causes her. I blew up, citing her willingness to drive four hours to Timber’s house in Augusta and spend a week with her at a time, juxtaposed with the infrequency of her making day trips to see me, refusal to travel 30 extra minutes after a doctor’s appointment to say hello, and hesitance to attend just one of the many literary readings I participate in on a regular basis around town. To be fair, the readings occur late at night, a time that strikes particular fear in my mother on the road. But that evening, while I screamed at my mother on the phone, I wouldn’t accept any of her excuses: that she hates driving after dark, that she has to stay home with my father, that taking my father with her to Timber’s house provides some relief from feeling alone.

“You can’t always use Daddy as a cop-out!” I yelled. “I still need a mother!”

With which she punched me in the gut: “Okay, I’ll pull myself together and come to one of your events late at night and get killed in a car accident. That will take care of my problem with you and take care of my problem at home!”

I shouted she’s full of shit well after she hung up on me, and eventually calmed down enough to call her back.

“You just don’t understand what it’s like,” she said. “You and your sister are moving on with your lives, and I’m stuck.”

She’s right: I don’t understand. I envision my mother sitting at the dinner table with my father but in reality eating in solitude; drinking her morning coffee on the couch while petting her main companion, the dog; weeping in her garden on her knees over a bed of black-eyed Susans as though her face were a watering can. After a while I always stop myself from thinking about it too hard.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sandra permalink
    September 20, 2014 2:39 pm

    My daughter, Mary Warner, recommended your post about dealing with alzheimer’s…I enjoyed your story and identified with some of your struggles as a mom, one who had a mom with physical and mental health challenges, and a family member who loves to spend time with family. 🙂 Thank you for sharing. My mother’s illness affected her kids most of her life, and towards the end when she could no longer move from the couch or carry on a rational conversation, it was hard—on everyone—especially my dad. My mom died 3 years ago, and I still find myself processing different parts of who my mother was and how it has affected my life.

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