my mother has her morning coffee and breakfast at 7:45am. at some point while she eats, i ask her three questions: mom, what’s your name? what is your sisters name? how old are you? i’ll try to give her clues when she struggles to remember.
every morning. she usually remember her name; once in a while remembers her sister’s name; rarely know her age.
if she answers with any modicum of lucidity, i’ll venture further with an additional question: what was your husband’s name? since they were married for 62 years, she ought to remember the name “rudy”, no? well, no…
if i am feeling extra bold i will ask this question: “mom, what’s my name?” her response is usually a blank stare. i’ll give some clues: “i’m your son…you’re my mother… i live with you here in your house.” after more silent moments, i’ll tell her “arthur.” once in a awhile, mom will respond with a knowing smile. but usually she does not know who i am
i am used to this knowing-not knowing morning routine now. no surprises.
for me, asking the question about my name is like buying a lottery ticket. a favorable outcome is highly unlikely. initially there’s a glimmer of hope. but in waiting for the answer i desire, it never comes from her lips. i know that my heart will drop when i get the blank stare. but i am impelled to ask the question none the less. i feel disappointed. it is part of the cross i carry.
mom had slight dementia. but after her stroke in 2019, the doctor explained she was not physically affected but much of her memory is now gone. also, she will not be able to connect easily her remaining memories with what comes out of her mouth. i had to take a solitary walk after that news.
what i heard the doc say was, “mom will never know who i am anymore.” i cried
so i learned to live with this new relationship with my mother during the covid lockdowns. mom somewhat knows that i am a person she can trust although she does not quite know who i am. when she wants to get my attention, she calls me “manong.” a respectful filipino moniker for an old man. well, i am preparing for my 60th birthday…
mom now speaks four languages: ilocano, tagalog, english and gibberish. she makes up her own words when her brain and mouth are disconnected. i am still learning that dialect.
but every now and then, light breaks through the clouds. i could be in the next room and i will hear my mother call for me, “arthur, arthur.” my heart jumps when i hear my name from her lips. she actually DOES know who i am. she needs me. she will show me a crow that landed in the trees across the street. she smiles.
this surprise blessing of hearing my name melts away the disappointments of blank stares.
eventhough the cross exists, grace abounds. the Holy Spirit moves within us and in our loved ones in uncontrollable ways. in my better moments i remember this dynamic of faith. in my best moments, i give thanks to God for these surprises of love.
isaiah 49: 13-15
Sing out, heavens, and rejoice, earth,
break forth into song, you mountains,
For the LORD comforts his people
and shows mercy to his afflicted.
But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.
One of the most beautiful and inspiring pieces of writing I’ve read. So much love in the realities you both live.
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God bless you lanny!
She may not remember. But you will and so do I.
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amen amen. thanks for caring