Vannie Writes

The soul of a poet. The spirit of a warrior.

Ode To An Alzheimer's Statistic

My mother quietly tells me "no peanut butter and jelly for you, it's too late."

"But mommy, why can't I have it? When I get big and you get little I'm not going to give you any peanut butter and jelly either." I remember that long ago whining childhood taunt as if it were yesterday, and tears flow as I feed my mother a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Childish words said in the heat of the moment never forgotten. This then must be my penance.

Mom, mommy, maaa!, mother. She answered to all of these and more. Wife, auntie, grandma, sister, friend.

Always taking care of others - never taking the time to be cared for. Never giving herself credit for being smart, clever or talented. What is it to take care of a demanding husband, six children even more demanding, clean house, cook and remind each family member to arise for work, for school?

Finally a day of rest. It's Sunday. Sunday morning. We awaken to our mother's sweet voice singing precious southern hymns; and to the sound of bacon sizzling, the smell of eggs, biscuits and strong coffee which tells us it's time to get up. But we all wait. We don't get up until we hear our mother's voice calling us, telling us what we already know. Sunday morning. Rise and shine, it's time for church. Mom, where are my shoes? Did you wash my shirt? I can't find my socks, why can't I wear my red dress? Any donuts?

Not smart, not clever? What was she thinking?

Ambitions put aside, put on the back burner. Mom did you ever want to a career? The question catches her off guard, the look in her eyes tells me that she did have dreams. But she replies, "I love my children, they are enough for me. Ambitions forgotten? I don't think so. Not forgotten, just pushed far into the recesses of a mother's heart and soul because that's what her mother did.

Never stopping even when her health began to fail. Giving, always giving. To family, friends, church and anyone else who needed help.

There were times when I had my mother selfishly to myself. When I needed her to focus just on me. These were the times we would talk on the telephone for hours. Or go shopping. We vacationed together, just the two of us doing girlish things. I reveled in those precious moments. Sometimes hurtful sad truths were revealed. "Mother, were you ever truly happy?" "Nooo", she slowly and sadly replies. Never happy? How could that be? She tries to clarify by saying her children make her happy. But clarification comes too late, she has already bared her soul. She turned to religion to fill the void that neither her husband, nor her children could fill. Is it because she could not or would not for whatever reason she held close to her heart, let us in? Never happy. To this day, her response haunts me more than hurts me.

She started forgetting things and they were laughingly called 'senior moments.' Then she forgot more than she remembered. "Remember daughter, I have to go to the bank today" "Mom, don't you remember, we went this morning." "What day is it?" "It's Wednesday mommy" "No, it's Sunday, don't I have to go to church?"

Mother's frustration when she could not say the word she wanted to. Mother's confusion when she forgot which button to push to listen to her treasured bible tapes. "What's wrong with these tapes, why won't they play?" Mother's anger upon dialing an incorrect number and a stranger answers. "I want to speak to my son" - I'm sorry you have the wrong number. "THIS IS THE RIGHT NUMBER!"

She gave until there was no more to give. We, her children, watched and could do nothing to save her from the depths of a bottomless dark pit where time means nothing and words mean less. When that window of blessed freedom opened she slipped right through it and never looked back.

My mother a statistic? No way. Not to me. She's still mom.

Vannie Ryanes 

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