Sunday, October 24, 2010

What's your name?

I walked into the assisted living home to find a dozen or so of the residents singing "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover." I was going to skirt the room and take the stairs at the far end to the second floor where my mother's room was. But I paused to look at the faces just in case she was part of the group.

She was.

She wasn't expecting me; I hadn't called to say I was coming, and she wouldn't have remembered if I had. This I'd discovered on other visits when I had called before making the hour-and-a-half drive.

She always had that spark of recognition when I knocked and then entered her room.

"Hi, Ruthie," she'd exclaim, and I always felt relieved, knowing I was still in her shadowy memory bank.

Today I went over and knelt on the floor beside her chair. She smiled and said hello. But she'd spoken politely as she might do to a stranger. Then she gave me a quizzical look. 

"You look like my daughter, " she said, searching my face.

"Because I am, Mom," I said. "I'm Ruthie."

She chuckled and clasped my hand, but I could see she wasn't sure. We listened to the music for a while.  A lively woman was taking the residents on a European "tour," telling a fanciful story and singing songs from each country.

My mother joined in on "Loch Lomond," a song she and my father sang on car trips. Although she doesn't remember the trips—or my father, anymore—she didn't miss a word. "For me and my true love will never meet again..."

Then she said, "You look like my daughter."

"Mom, it's me. Ruthie."

"What's your first name?" she asked.

"Ruth," I said, shaking my head to myself. She'd slipped mentally since my last visit.

"No, what's your first name?" she repeated. 

And it came to me. Since birth I've gone by my middle name, but I carry my paternal grandmother's name as my nearly forgotten first.

"Lillian," I said.

"It is you," She said. And she laughed, and held her arms out for a hug.

Click to read: The Scent of a Mother 
Click to read: Citrus-scented Love

Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to forget. ~Kevin Arnold


Pauline said...

I would switch Kevin Arnold's words to read "love is a way of holding onto things you want to remember..."

This is a poignant story - may you always be able to remember your mother saying, "It IS you."

Ross Eldridge said...

Lovely, Ruth.

We have a cold (below freezing) but clear day up here, few leaves left on the trees, the dogs (like their people) are wearing overcoats. Winter is early ... again. But your words about your mother are a beautiful flower somehow, breaking through the frost.

Thank you!


Wanda said...

Ruth, I'm in Tahoe with limited use of the computer, but just had to tell you what a lovely story. It touched me deeply.

I've missed you, glad to see you back.

Love and Hugs
Wanda Mae

elhajj said...

ha, ha! Sort of a homemade CAPTCHA, but to test for family. I love it.

Alice said...

Beautiful piece of writing, Ruth, soft and sad. Makes the whole terrible thing seem so simple.


Barbara said...

I'm sure she felt relieved to have sorted through all that. The gradual loss of a mind is so sad for everyone concerned. I suppose you can only take it a day at a time and hope for that glimmer of recognition.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

That was so very touching. Thank you for sharing this.

Jody Ewing said...

What a beautiful story, Ruth. Thanks so much for sharing this. It appears your mother still has a gentle sense of humor.

Tere said...

Heartbreaking but also lovely Ruth. I know it must be hard to visit and to watch your Mom fade away but you do it. You are a special person.

Lisa said...

What a beautiful post! Interesting the things that we forget and then remember.