Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Mother's Loss of Memory

My mother, 91, is losing it. For a time, we thought all she needed was a hearing aid to bring her back into the mix. We didn't realize that the root cause of her growing silence was not poor hearing but her increasing inability to follow and stay with the conversation.

We didn't think it would happen this way. My mother had the memory of an elephant. She could tell you the menu at the Parisian restaurant 20 years before, detail the family tree going back multiple generations, finish the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle just like that. My mother carried hundreds of addresses and phone numbers around in her head, easily accessing them whenever necessary. She managed four children and a husband and, after we had all gone, she chaired or co-chaired everything from music festivals to Peace Now.

My mother's memory never failed her; she could pull any piece of past history like a good magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

Then everything changed. Slowly, at first. It was still possible to pin her mental haze on a bad night's sleep or a nasty cold. She'd have a good day or days, and we'd all breathe a sigh of relief, fooling ourselves.

But there's no fooling anybody now. My mother can't remember what she did earlier in the day, let alone the day before. She has renounced her role as the family cook, turned over the keys to the car, relinquished her responsibilities as the organizer. For the first time in her life, she is no longer in control. And in a strange way, I think she is relieved.

No more plans to make, meetings to chair, appointments to keep, family members' and friends' lives to monitor. She is sweeter, more relaxed. After almost 90 years of being in charge, she can let others rule the roost.

When I asked her if her memory loss bothered her, she blithely said, "I'm just happy to be alive."

We should all be so content.

1 comment:

lynne said...

Lovely, and you are lucky to have her!