I woke when the sky had just begun to lighten, but the streetlamps were still on because it was too early for night to end its time on the clock. I looked outside my living room window, which faces south. I watched the red lights that flash on top of a distant water tower, which stands tall above the rooftops of houses in the neighboring town of North Bellmore. The water tower is a tall Blue structure that stands like many others that serve our suburban section of the world.
The second tallest are the trees that grow only slightly higher than the homes in my neighborhood. They too look pretty at this time in the morning.
Even the birds had yet to wake as early as me. I was awake before their chirps that begin at dawn. But this is good because I need times like this. I need these moments of perfect silence to reflect on what I have. And in moments like this one, and in times when I am not sure what to do, I do the only thing I know how, which is sit down and write to you.
When I was a little, Mom explained that age is a part of life. She explained that age is not always fair. It is not always easy, and though the process is inevitable, aging is not always kind. She told me, “In the beginning it is written,” but I was a young boy when she first told me this.
She first told me these things when Aunt Minnie passed away. I was too young to know Aunt Minnie. I was too young to understand what dying means, and other than the few pictures of Aunt Minnie and myself, I was too young to recollect ever meeting her.
Moms, however, are not supposed to age. At least, this is how it seemed to me. Moms are supposed to be around to cook your favorite dishes whenever we need them most. Mothers are not supposed to weaken or become sick. Mothers are supposed to be timelessly young and endlessly loving. I suppose in my wishful desire to believe age will not happen; I must have blinked for a second too long. Time seemed to gain on me. And now, Mom is not well.
It is a helpless feeling when speaking on a phone to a doctor in another state. Aside from the language barrier and the struggle to weave through the doctor’s thick accent, I was faced the frustration of helplessness and the unfortunate reminder of Mom’s lesson. Age, in her case, has not been a fair thing.
There are few suggestions more difficult to accept than “Dementia.” Some days are better than others. Some days, Mom is sharp, but others days are confusing for her. I assume this is what she meant when she explained that age is not always a fair thing.
I thanked the nurse that spoke with me and explained the details of Mom’s condition. I thanked the doctor after our conversation as well. I thanked them for their patience, because above all, the woman they care for is much different than the Mom I grew up with. She can be difficult now. She is frustrated and her posture is hunched. She walks slowly with a walker and she has become very thin and fragile. It is hard to see her like this.
I was thinking about our time together when we lived at 277 Merrick Avenue. Mom was so young then. I guess we all were. I was thinking about Mom’s mashed potatoes with chicken cutlets and the plates she used to serve them on. I can remember this very clearly. I was picturing the dining room and the dark paneling on the walls. I remember who sat in which seat at the dining room table. But Mom rarely sat at all. She made sure everyone else had food on their plate and were satisfied before feeding herself.
I remember the brown gravy and how it spilled over the fluffed white pillow of mashed potatoes before leaking on to the breaded cutlets that sat beside them. I could have eaten this dish, and this dish only, every day, for the rest of my life, and it would have been no less satisfying than the first, perfect mouthful.
I suppose then, I never thought there would be an end to dishes like this. And though I have learned to cook this meal for myself, I have yet to duplicate its perfection. Perhaps, I cannot duplicate this dish because the lack of one main ingredient, which is a mother’s love.
For the moment, I have put the intellectual understanding of life on life’s terms, as well as medical references, medications, and the lists of Mom’s ailments to the side. Instead, I am focusing on the memory and realization that life is indeed a fleeting process. Life comes without warnings, so it is safe to say that I should not live by assumptions; however, I should live by actions because it is by action that we create our memories.
I am reminded of an ancient Sanskrit poem:
“Look to this day for it is life . . . the very life of life.
In its brief course lie all the realities and truths of existence
the joy of growth, the splendor of action
the glory of power.
For yesterday is but a memory and tomorrow is only a vision.
But today well lived makes every yesterday a memory of happiness
and every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day.”
It is important that I value the time we are lent in this life. It is important that I remember the times like our moments at the dinner table. And furthermore, it is important that I never waste another moment on frivolous regret.
But for right now . . .
I’m just a son that hopes his Mom feels better.
When Cousin Robbie was sick, he had a dream about a bus. Robbie told me about his dream the next morning when I visited him at the hospital.
He explained, “I had the strangest dream last night. I dreamt that your father came to visit me. He was driving this huge bus. Gram was with him and so was Grandpa Ben.”
Robbie said, “They all looked so clean and happy. They came to visit me and your father said, ‘Not to worry.’ He told me, ‘Everything is going to be okay,’ and that when I was ready, they would come back for me when it was my turn to get on the bus and that I could go with them.”
Robbie passed that following day. Yes, it hurt. But I drew comfort knowing that you came on the bus and picked him up.
I am not sure if Mom is ready for the bus yet, however, I know the ride is not far off.
But Pop, whenever the bus comes for her, do you think you could come and visit me in a dream too? This way, whenever Mom goes, at least I know she will be back with you.
We all miss you down here.
Stop by if you have the chance.
There’s a lot we need to catch up on