Friday, October 5, 2012

Mothers and butterflies...

When I visited my 92-year-old mother at her assisted living home, I thought of butterflies—the painted ladies I’d seen sipping the last sweet nectar from the buddleia in my back yard.

Painted ladies don’t live long, and my 92-year-old mother certainly has. So that’s not the comparison. And she certainly wasn’t sipping anything when I walked into her room; she was sleeping in front of a blaring TV. And neither was she painted. She’s never been much for make-up.

But nonetheless, painted lady butterflies that popped into my mind as I watched her sleeping.

“Mom?” I said softly.

She startled and I could see in an instant that she didn’t have a clue who I was.

So I told her.  “It’s Ruthie,” I said.

That’s always been enough for her face to blossom into a smile of recognition.

“Ruthie!” she always exclaims with pleasure.

But this time her smile wasn’t convincing--she didn’t exclaim--and I could tell she didn’t know who I was. 

But she went with me anyway on a drive to the clinic to get her blood drawn. She chatted pleasantly along the way. She only asked twice where we were going and why.

On the way home I asked if she knew who I was.

“Not really,” she said.

I needed to know once and for all if she remembered me, if not by sight at least by name.

“I’m Ruthie. Does that ring a bell?”

“I know it should mean something,” she said with a little chuckle.

“But it doesn’t?”

“Not really.”

So, it’s final.

Now I know for sure I’ve been erased from her memory banks. It’s been a long time coming and I’ve been preparing myself, even fooling myself into thinking she DID still remember when it was pretty obvious that it was “not really.”

So it feels … okay. Expected. Sad.

When I got home I look at the photos of painted lady butterflies I’d taken recently trying to determine why they came to mind when I saw my mother.

They butterflies were still beautiful, but tattered and torn, with chunks missing from wing tips. They’d done a lot of living, these butterflies, and it showed. Like someone else I know.

If a tree falls...

"If you're always battling against getting older, you're always going to be unhappy, because it's going to happen anyhow." ~ Mitch Albom


Tere said...

This has got to be so hard. I can tell by your words how it hurts, even when you know it's coming. My heart is with you.

The Bug said...

Although the subject is sad your words are compelling. Sad, inevitable, glorious...

Ruth D~ said...

Tere, you're right,knowing it's coming isn't a real defense...but it spreads out the pain.

Thanks, Bug.

Patricia L. Johnson said...

This is touching Ruth. Yes, it spreads out the pain. The comparison to the worn but still beautiful butterflies hit home especially for me. Both my Mom and now my husband are fighting this battle. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Your words are brave and help others.


Ruth D~ said...

I think of you often, Pat, and wonder how things are going in your life. It's tough to lose loved ones in any manner abruptly or gradually by degree. I imagine it's particularly tough losing a husband this way. But we don't get to choose, do we? Please keep in touch.

wilmasanders said...

Ruth, beautifully written, you have found the words that we cannot when faced with this sad day. Thanks for writing and for including me. It is phrased so perfectly. And one day will that be us?

Gary Presley said...

The oddity of life is that it is both cruel and beautiful, something that is implied in this story.

I suppose the best we can do is seize upon the beauty, focus on it, love it, in spite of the pain of cruelty.

And here I see beauty, not in what is happening to your mother, but in the love you express in your actions. Love is perfect beauty, after all.

Michael said...


Your post is so poignant ... my Mother passed away on July 24 at the age of 99. She was relatively healthy and living independently up until a month before she died and I am so grateful for the life she lived. I am lucky to have had her for so long but she is missed nonetheless ... my best wishes to you and to your Mom.