One of her long-time friends visited Mom in the assisted living facility. This was a friend who attended church with us and served with Mom on several committees.
When her friend entered the room, Mom looked up and smiled – as if she remembered the years of service together, the sharing of Mennonite foods and the fellowship in a crowded sanctuary.
The three of us chatted about the weather. Mom repeated the same phrase several times, “So cold now. The ice…that’s what you have to be careful of.”
The friend and I reminisced about another friend who had recently graduated to heaven. We talked about family and generations of connections, the folks who traveled a distance for the funeral, the nice service, the beautiful music.
Mom’s smile remained in the same upturned pose. She seemed a world away.
The friend asked about Mom’s activities. “Do you like the food here?”
“Oh, yes. Wonderful food. I think I’m getting fat.”
We all laughed. My slender mother has never struggled with her weight. Her only weight gains over the years were the pregnancies of her three children and even then, she gained a mere eight pounds.
Mom’s smile widened. She seemed to enjoy the echoes of our laughter even though she may not have comprehended the humor. It’s odd how a smile conveys a compliant spirit even as memory hides behind walls of dementia-covered plaque.
Then a break in the conversation – one of those lulls where no one knows what to say because every appropriate subject has been covered.
Mom filled in the gaps with the same statement as before. “The ice…you have to be careful of ice.”
The friend reached for her coat and found her gloves tucked into her pockets. She hugged Mom good-bye, then hugged me. Her whisper touched my cheek with the slight smell of peppermint gum. “I’ll pray for your mother, for all of you. Alzheimer’s is a such a terrible disease.”
“Thank you. We appreciate that.”
As she left, Mom’s smile began to fade as her eyes widened. “Who was that?” she asked.
“Your friend from church. You used to be in the same Sunday School class. You met every week and served in the women’s ministry. She was a good friend.”
“I see,” said Mom, but her eyes registered no remembrance.
Then she turned toward the winter-frosted window and smiled.
©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/11QATC1