by Scott Linn
The Psalmist writes, "Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?" 88:12 And, "Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness." 88:18
My mother lives in that land of forgetfulness. On Memorial Day, 1993, my mom stopped remembering. She developed Alzheimer's. On that most ironic of days, she no longer knew my father. She liked him; she thought he was a nice old man; she called him Grandpa; she was impressed that an older gentleman could fall in love with her; but she did not know who he was. He died less than two months later of a heart that was broken as much as of a heart that just broke. After almost 53 years of love, he could not understand what had happened.
When Dad died, my mom went into a nursing home. A week later she fell and broke her hip. After that, she had two severe cases of cystitis and one of phlebitis all of which hospitalized her. She developed a bed sore on her back that kept her laid up in a special bed for months. At one point, she was completely out of it. She could not respond to anything. She sat slumped over - her head pillowed only by the tray on her wheelchair. I tried to feed her one day. She could not swallow much less chew what I gave her.
When things were the bleakest, she rallied back. Her health improved. Her appetite came back. The physical therapists even got her to walk some. She is still cracked up, but she has become a real crack up. The things she does, the things she says, and the things she says she does keep me laughing when I've been there and fill her caregiver and the nursing home staff with stories that they rush to tell me when I haven't.
One day when she was in her bed sore special bed, she looked up at me and said, "You're going to think this is so funny, but I was talking to someone today, and I couldn't remember your name."
I said, "It's Bill [my boyhood name], Mom."
She said, "Well, I KNOW that, but what's your last name? I went looking in that book where all the names are ...."
"The Phone Book, Mom?"
"Yes, that's it."
"Well, my name's Bill Linn."
"Well, that explains it," she said - "I was looking under Mud."
I had to go walk out in the hall for a few minutes.
Another day, I was talking to her out in the sitting area. One of the other female inmates came up to her and growled, "Nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh." Mom looked at her and said with complete ease, "I'm sorry, I don't speak French. But, I believe my son does." [I don't voulez a single word in Francaise.]
Mom fell in love and got engaged (in her head) to a 60 year old detainee named Dave. Their conversations were surreal. Like normal conversations Mom would say her part and wait while Dave said his part, and he did the same back. Only, Mom was discussing wedding plans and Dave was counting to one hundred. She broke up with him several times because "he didn't communicate very well." The staff told me of one time when she was still engaged: Mom was holding Dave's hand and she announced in a loud voice to the group, "May I have everyone's attention! I have an announcement! David and I are going to be married." A woman vistor was there. She said to Mom, "Excuse me. Who did you say you were marrying?" Mom said, "David *****." This woman was the REAL Mrs. David *****. She looked at Mom and said, "Oh well, the more the merrier. If you can get him down the aisle, more power to you."
Mom doesn't live in the past like the television portrayal of Alzheimer's. She lives in her own present world and has a great time. She's been to Russia, to Paris, to California, and lecturing down in the islands. The Lutherans are going to publish some of her poetry. She just went back to school and got her degree in Spanish (because she couldn't remember well enough to conjugate all the German verbs). She graduated with honors. She married a man who was 21 1/2. [If it's going to be imaginary, it might as well be fun.]
I love to quiz her on what she's been up to. The one rule I have is never to ask her, "Do you remember ....?" I don't want to stress her out, and I don't want to know if the answer is "No." For instance, I never ask her if she knows who I am. Sometimes, she introduces me as her brother Jerry, but that's all right - Jerry is a nice guy.
There is one question above all others that I have been reluctant to ask her: "Do you remember God?" I've been afraid to hear a negative answer. You see, there is *NOTHING* I can do to make her remember. If she has forgotten God, no amount of pleading or prompting can bring it back. I know. I tried it when she didn't know my dad.
Now, you can tell from my stories, that God hasn't forgotten her. And, you know what I found out the other day? She hasn't forgotten Him either. Our caregiver told my wife that Mom often goes out to the group and witnesses to them, prays with them, and tells them that they need to be saved. And, you know what else? Her former night nurse has had to quit because he is dying of AIDS. I don't know this, but maybe the only Gospel he has ever heard came from the lips of that sweet, crazy old mother of mine.
Praise God from Whom ALL blessings flow.
Update from Scott:
My mother died peacefully in Sept. 1999
Over the years, I received numerous emails of encouragement and shared grief from folks. I have always been thankful to you for posting it on CRTA.
This essay was submitted by Scott "Bill" Linn.
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