Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tied Up in (Forget Me) Knots

Hi, Mom! How are you doing?

It's so good to see you!

It's good to see you, too. I know it seems like it's been a long time since I've been here at the nursing home, but it was just.... Well, never mind. I've been busy. But I've been thinking of you. I'm always thinking of you!

I stopped in a couple days ago, but you were sleeping. I tried to wake you, but you kept dozing off. I talked anyway. You probably don't remember, huh? I knew it wasn't an ideal time of day to visit, but it was the only time I could get away....

It's just so good to see you!

It's good to see you too. We've been pretty busy. Of course there's not really anything exciting or memorable to tell you. Just the ordinary, everyday stuff that eats up time before you know it.

It's not much of an excuse. It's just so hard to get away sometimes. Even for a little while.

It's so good to see you!

I know. You too. Anyway, today I just had to shuffle schedules and come see you. Even if I don't have much to talk about, we can just sit here and hold hands. And I'll talk. About everything and nothing. Anything but what's really on my mind.

It's just so good to see you.

Do you remember Sue? They used to live next door? She said to say hi. So... hi.

A lot of people ask about you. They say they see you when they're here visiting their own parents. I tell them the same thing. Somehow it seems to make us feel a little better. It's our way of recognizing that unspoken, shared guilt we have. The feeling that we can never visit often enough, or stay long enough.

They say you're looking good. They tell me they said hi, but they're not sure if you recognized them or not. And really, why should you? I mean, we don't look quite the same as we did back in school. But that's how they remember you, that's how they remember their folks. I'm the same. In our minds you're still the Little League coach, the club leader, the chaperone at the dance. Or you're taking us out for dinner at college. Or dancing at our wedding. Proudly holding our babies.

It's so good to see you!

Then they ask the tough question: “Do you think she recognizes you?” And I say yes. But I hesitate. And I wonder if they're thinking the same thing I am: Do I really believe this? Do you really recognize me? And what will I do when....

Because they aren't really asking me about you, they're asking themselves about their own parents. They're asking “Do you think my mom still recognizes me?” That's what I'm doing when I ask how their parents are doing. We can't ask it outright. We can't share our fears so openly. But we know. Without speaking, we know how afraid we are that you will forget us.

So. I don't visit as often as I'd like because I'm busy.

But I'm also afraid.

And I feel guilty about not visiting more often. And I feel guilty about taking time away from the kids, my husband, my job to come here and visit with you. And I feel guilty about feeling guilty. But you know that, don't you?

I remember how you struggled to find time to visit Gramma without shortchanging me. At the time I thought that I was grown up and you didn't need to worry about me. Now I realize I might not have needed you to worry about me, but you needed to worry about me. And you needed to worry about Gramma. It's the challenge of being caught between two generations.

It's just so good to see you!

Speaking of the kids, I've got to be getting home. But I promise I'll visit again soon.

I promise.

Look at our hands. I tell everyone I have your hands. But who's hands do you have? When did they get so thin, so fragile? Sometimes I worry I'm holding yours too tight, that I will hurt you. But I don't want to let go. I'm afraid you'll slip away. Because you're already slipping away. And I don't know how to ask you to stay, much less how to let you go.

I love you.

Don't forget that (you know me).

I won't forget that (I love you).

I promise.

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