May 10th, 2006

Happy Birthday, Dimples

dimplesTomorrow is my mother's birthday. She'll be 88. She won't know it. She won't know it's her birthday. She won't know that she's 88. She won't know that she's in an assisted living facility. She won't know that I've come to see her and brought her a cake. She only knows... what?

In some ways, I think, Alzheimer's Disease is like severe autism. The person with the disease has an interior life that nobody else will ever know.

I've said before that I think Mummy is in the store, taking inventory, or changing the displays. I think that because of the words I pick out from the neurological static that comes out of her mouth. There are numbers, and colors. Sometimes she'll tell an invisible assistant to put something there, where people can see it.

But who knows.

She's been saying the names of dead people for the past couple of weeks, and pointing. At them? I don't know. I've asked her if she sees her cousin Milton, who was her favorite relative. I don't get an answer.

This is what she's become: an empty shell, a blown-out egg. Fragile and hollow, with only a hint of what was inside before. Let me show you something else:

This was the hottie who did her part for the war effort by dancing with sailors at the USO. She drove them wild. Check her out, in her sailor's cap and her peacoat. I still have that peacoat. It had her name written in indelible ink on the inside label, where the sailor's was supposed to go. She always giggled a little when she let me wear it, and told me it was a REAL peacoat, one that a sailor had given her, and they weren't supposed to do that.

The old dame had some set of pins on her, didn't she? And she still has a trim pair of ankles, even if she can't really walk.

I wish she was still on that beach, smiling with those dimples at whoever took the picture. I cropped it, but his toes are in the shot, at the bottom. I wish she were dancing with the sailors, and not counting pairs of shoes.

I have to believe that she is where she was happiest in her life, because to believe otherwise is too cruel. For me, for her, for anyone who ever loved her.

Happy birthday, Momma. I love you. I made your recipe for macaroni and cheese for dinner tonight. I'll bring you some tomorrow.