I write a lot about my mom. Mostly because it helps me deal with her Alzheimer’s and sort my feelings out. The last story I shared, Missing Memories, was written before she got her official diagnosis. A lot has changed since then, so for mother’s day I wanted to write an updated tribute for my mom. Everything written in italics will be memories and everything written in plain text is what happened today. This helps compare the ways things have changed, but most importantly, the ways she’s stayed the same.
Tom Chapin’s cassete is in the player, his positive lyrics matching our spirit.
“Early Sunday morning Dad came into our room and said, “Shh, let’s not wake Mommy, we’re gonna make Mommy breakfast in bed!” Mother’s Day, Mother’s Day, our own Mommy’s special day is here.”
We’re in the kitchen getting our tray ready. Breakfast-check, orange juice-check, three excited children-check. We carry the tray up to “surprise” Mom. We sit on the bed as a family, smiles on all our faces as Mom enjoys her breakfast.
Kevin walks up the stairs to the attic, “We need to hug attack your mom when we get downstairs.”
“Yea, but not like violently. Just give her hugs because it’s Mother’s Day.”
We head to the first floor to grab our bagels and cream cheese. Mom wanders into the kitchen and our “hug attack” begins.
“Happy Mother’s Day” I squeeze her tight.
Kevin comes up behind us, “Hey, I want to get in on this!” He squeezes us both, smiles on all our faces.
My family gets ready to go to church. We are celebrating my Confirmation. My neighbor, Mrs. White, was my mentor, while my sister’s was Mrs. Thew. Two well-loved women in our congregation. Mrs. White gives me a beautiful pink pearl necklace, one of the only pieces of jewelry I ever wore with some consistency. My mom tells us how lucky we are to have such wonderful neighbors and a loving community. My mom was a Sunday School teacher. She helped teach me, and she helped teach all the children in our community. She taught us kindness. She taught us love.
My dad, Mom, Kevin and I head to church together. Usually Kevin and I don’t go, but lately Mom has been saying she doesn’t want to go and we thought if we all went she would want to as well. She always enjoys going to church once she’s there.
I drop off my parents by the door before finding some parking. Kevin and I walk to their pew and try to squeeze in. Dad assists my mom in sliding over to give us room, but she doesn’t quite understand moaning, “No, no.”
“It’s okay!” we tell her.
We stand for the first hymn and she reaches for the pew in front, grabbing their bulletin. I gently take it from her hands, “I’ll take this for you, Mom.” and I put it back down. The women in the pew smiles at me. She understands.
Dad’s holding one of her hands. The other she holds in the air. She’s rubbing her fingers, flexing and stretching, waving and turning. She makes a fist so I “pound it” and she laughs. I gently pat her leg and she laughs again.
It’s Christmas Eve and we’re at the 10:00 PM service. We had all of our family and friends over between the two services. My cousin kept filling my mom’s wine glass…she is a little tipsy. We are trying to say a prayer, Mom is giggling and laughing. She is such a role model, and she is drunk at Christmas Eve service…it is hard not to laugh with her.
A boy from the congregation is reading our Call to Worship. He says, “May God continue to bless us.” and Kevin sneezes. Mom laughs so I laugh. The timing was perfect. We look at each other and share a smile. Kevin sneezes again. Mom laughs as I whisper, “Bless you.”
Mom keeps pointing at my skirt and touching my legs. The pattern is confusing her I think. It looks like she’s grabbing for my hand, but when I hold it out she points at my legs. I grab her hand anyway and give it a squeeze. She gives me a smile and laughs.
It’s time for the Passing of the Peace so everyone stands up to greet each other. Mom has a lot of visitors. Mr. White comes from behind to give her a hug. Her face lights up at the sight of him and she leans her head into his hug, her face completely peaceful. Our cousin, Holly, comes over to say hi. Mom is looking up and doesn’t notice so I say, “Mom, look! Holly is here to say hi to you!” She gasps delightedly and grabs for Holly’s hand, giving her the famous “Cindy Smile”.
When we sit down she bends and grabs at my foot. I ask her why she’s touching my foot, and she sits back up, “What?” Instead of repeating the question I give her a huge smile, scrunching up my face and wrinkling my nose and eyes. She returns the smile, just like mine, that’s her “Cindy Smile”. She laughs.
The radio is blasting in my mom’s Honda Civic. I tell her, “I love this song!” and turn it up a little more. Mom grins at me as I sing along. The next song comes on and again, “I LOVE this song!” and I turn it up a little more. She laughs a little and my sister groans, “You LOVE every song!”
We’re at home and I’m singing at the top of my lungs. Disney songs, musicals, pop songs, classic rock, folk songs…I’ll sing anything. Mom tells me, “I love when you sing. I always know you’re happy when you’re singing.”
Just a few days ago I’m singing “For Good” from Wicked and Mom shuffles into the kitchen.
“That was nice.”
So I keep singing to her, but I have to turn and do the dishes because I know if I start singing the line, “because I knew you, I have been changed for good” while looking at her face I will start to cry.
The service is over so I grab Mom’s hand to lead her out of the pew. We head toward the exit where more hugs await us as we say goodbye. A friend of the family, and my best friend’s mom, hands Mom a beautiful potted plant saying “Happy Momma’s Day, Momma!” Mom grasps right at the petals so I quickly grab the pot and say, “Thank you.” Mom can’t really hold onto things anymore, but now that I’m holding the plant I can’t hold onto Mom.
She starts to head towards the side door and Dad realizes after his hugs that Mom is not in his sight. A second of panic flies across his face as he says, “Where’s Mom?” I point her out to him and walk over to her saying, “Come this way, Mom!” She laughs at me, but doesn’t move till Dad takes her hand and leads her out the door.
When I think of my mom, I think of the “Cindy Smile”. I think of the way she laughs so easily and freely. I think of the way she’s supported me and accepted me for who I am. I think of the way she comforts me. Even now, when I am crying she will hold me and rub my back and cry along. We are both sympathetic criers. We both have sympathetic hearts. My mom taught me to be kind, loving, and open. Even now, when she cannot do the simplest functions by herself, she still manages to keep her spirit glowing.
To the best Mom I could have hoped for: Happy Mother’s Day!