Fred’s computer had been set up to be voice activated. He named the computer after his girlfriend Lucinda, so when he wants the machine to come on he says, “Lucinda, wake up!” Once awake the computer then greets him with any number of openings, some of which are “Good morning sexy”, “Hey stud,” and “I want you Fred”. One evening as he dictated his ongoing novel to the computer the real Lucinda charged into the room, yelling at Fred for forgetting to pick her up after work. Confused by the ambush Fred yelled out, “Lucinda, shut up!” The computer replied, “Powering down.” “No Lucinda,” Fred yelled at the computer, “Delete that.” The real Lucinda screamed, “You named that damned machine after me?!” The computer said, “Deleting program.” Fred yelled, “No, no… stop! Just stop!”
There are times when each of us wants to tell life to simply stop while we figure out something… ourselves, a relationship, an idea. But life does not stop, it keeps moving on and, at times… especially when we are confused… it can feel like we are running after our life, just trying to keep up with it. That is what life feels like right now for myself and my four siblings as our 90-year old mother slowly slips into dementia.
When we were kids and Mom wanted one of us and called out, invariably she would first call the wrong name; there were even times when she would go through four of our five names as well as the names of our three dogs before she landed on the one that she actually wanted. We always thought that was so funny, and sometimes, to her own amusement, we teased her about it. Now when I visit and she doesn’t get the right name I am not amused; I panic, unsure if the dementia has robbed us of even her ability to name us, to know who we are. There are times when she is relating a family-story to me about someone when I suddenly realize she is telling me about myself, as if I am my own son! At moments like that… like Fred… I feel bewildered and confused, and want life to just stop while I figure out all of this.
Life has a way of taking us down roads that we’d rather not go, and yet… like it or not… go we must. So we must find a way to be at peace with the trip. My way is to not focus on what we no longer have with Mom right now, but to instead recall and celebrate what we have had with her, what she and Daddy have done for us, as well as some of the hysterical highlights of our family-life… the infamous “pot-brownies” episode being one of them.
Despite my moments of sorrow when I am with her, and no matter what name she is calling me, there is something she needn’t even name and yet which she most assuredly knows: that she is our mother, and that we are her children. In the end… the heart still remembers what the mind no longer can.