Friday, June 6, 2014

Mama Bird's Memories

I've written much about my recent hometown visit and of course, the primary reason for every visit is to see my beloved Mom. My Mom's name is Alberta, but truth be told, I don't think she was ever very content with that name. Her older brother was Albert; the brother she just lost, and as much as she loved Albert, to her, the name just seemed like an afterthought. The name she truly adored was the nickname her siblings gave her: "Bird" or "Birdy".  This name was, thankfully, adopted by her nieces and nephews as they frequently call her "Aunt Birdy" to this day. In fact, when not calling her Mom, I often call her Birdy or "Mama Bird"...I'm actually going to start referring to her as such in future posts. Mom has also long relished having full bird-feeders at the ready, in order to watch birds of all colors flit about her window and I'm not sure if this is coincidence or an actual by-product of this lifelong nickname. 

There are many blessedly familiar aspects to the most recent visits with Mama Bird...that brilliant silvery mane of hers is as vibrant as ever; her head still throws back with laughter and that beautiful, inherited laugh can go on for days; with utter abandon...that these details are intact is like tonic to my soul. Mama Bird's mind continues to fail her, but not quite at the unforgiving rate one would expect of a woman diagnosed with Alzheimer's and I am grateful for that as well, largely because she still knows who I am. That said, her short-term memory is mostly gone and this is particularly difficult in times of loss. In three years, she has lost Dad and all of her surviving siblings, and each loss seems to take with it another chunk of her memories. With the recent tragic loss of her brother Albert and his son Al Jr., I spent a fair portion of the week reminding Mom of their passing and re-telling her how they passed away. I didn't mind doing it for her sake, but its wrenching to have to repeatedly place that stricken, shocked look on her face. Some questioned why I even bothered repeating it to her so much and why I wouldn't just let such painful news fade from her mind. I would answer that its because she needs to know and that she would go on to question why she hadn't heard from Albert in so long otherwise. Albert actually called Mom the day before he died, but she already had forgotten that. When a glimmer of realization hit her that she kept forgetting that Albert died, Mama Bird asked me if I could write it down for her. I did so; writing about when Albert and his son died, when we attended the funeral, who I was and when I was there.

On the last visit of my week, I asked her if she remembered the notes I wrote her and Mom replied that she had and thanked me. I opened her ice cream for her and reminded her that it was there and she needed to eat it before it melted, as it often does, according to the nurses. I ended our visit as I do every visit before I leave.......ever in fear that it will either be the last time I see her or that she will forget who I telling her she was the best Mom in the world and that I learned so much from her and Dad and that if I could be half the human being they were, then I had succeeded in life and that if I indeed was a success, then it was all due to them. And when I leave on that final day, I always pray to God as I'm walking to the parking lot that if nothing else is retained by her fading memories, please let my words to her linger for as long as possible.

And then I crumble, in tears, in my car. Every time. And then I leave. Again.

I love you, Mama Bird.


Cindi Kennaley said...

Oh Greg, beautifully written piece about a beautiful lady. I loved meeting your Mama Bird. :)

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