We used to chat for at least 30 minutes about recipes, her grandson or my latest writing project. She asked me about life in Kansas, and I listened to her descriptions of life in Oklahoma. We discussed the weather because it affected the various crops, and she knew the farm life still flowed through my veins. I missed the country. She knew that without my telling her.
But now, as Alzheimer’s steals her brain cells, Mom no longer initiates phone conversations. She answers basic yes and no questions, but she’s lost the cognitive ability to deal with open-ended questions. She can’t tell me about new recipes or express interest in my writing projects. She remembers her grandson’s name and always asks about him, but our conversations rarely last longer than 10 minutes.
I make a list of things to talk about, because Mom can’t think of new topics.
“How are you today, Mom?”
“Have you had any rain this week?”
“Is the food still good?”
“Yes. Good food.”
Then a pause to swallow my tears and try to think of some way to initiate a longer answer—anything to hear more of her personality come through, that sense of humor we once shared or maybe a nugget about her faith.
“What do you think, Mom, about the crops this year?”
“Oh. Hmm.” She hands the phone back to my sister. She’s obviously tired of talking and she’s run out of answers.
Although it’s difficult to talk to Mom now and carry on any type of relevant chat, I still call every week. I need to call, because I need to hear her voice.
I know that someday even that will disappear.
Note to readers who still have parents: Call them often. Call today. Initiate a conversation and take the time to call—while you can, while someone still answers.