She died yesterday. And I was suddenly reminded of how much I already missed her.
For four years she went deeper and deeper into the mental darkness of dementia. Parts of her knew she was slipping. Reminders of things that had been said only moments before were frustrating. She knew she had forgotten, she just didn’t know what. But she was full of compliments about shoes and scarves and nail color. So we simply readjusted what we connected over.
Before it was art. And writing. And the box of magnetic poetry she wanted us to make literary masterpieces with.
Every sleepover started with chocolate croissants in the morning while she perused The New York Times. She would sigh over the state of the world, absentmindedly patting Chelsea, her Old English Sheepdog that was big enough to see over the tabletop. We would sip our juice, and lick the chocolate from our fingers.
Then, it was off to the art store.
We would pile into her lavender Honda, Chelsea between us, and she would pop in the same tape we listened to a million times before. Jay O’Callahan’s “Orange Cheeks” would spill out of the speakers, with words we had long since memorized and a cadence we could repeat in our sleep.
Paints, sketch pads, scrapbook paper, stickers — we didn’t need to explain what we intended to create with them. She simply wanted to make sure we had all the materials necessary when inspiration struck.
Once the paint was cleaned and our creation praised, it was time for movies. The three-story tall video store, brimming with everything except the latest blockbusters, was the only one we’d go to. If they didn’t have the old movie she wanted us to see, they would order it and she’d have it for us next time.
It was the scary movies I remember most. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Wait Until Dark, they weren’t filled blood and gore, but they were terrifying all the same. Huddled in the tv room, I didn’t dare let on that I was scared. I never wanted her to second-guess this ritual my mom wasn’t privied to.
These days when she was young and vibrant and fully capable of navigating the world on her own — I’ve been mourning the loss of them for years.
She’s better now. Freed from the labored breathing and stark nursing home walls. No longer surrounded by the old age she refused to see in herself.
I asked her to remember to come visit me. I hope she heard.