She Knows My Name….but She Doesn’t 

 

At least two years have gone by since I heard my mother call me Jeff. The usual greeting is Hi Honey or My Son, My Son. It has been a very, very long time since she has spoken the name Jeff or Jeffrey. I think it’s quite possible she may never say it to me ever again. But I understand. 

The phone calls keep getting shorter as her attention span narrows. I called her the other day in the late afternoon. Sometimes I say Hi Mom, to give her a fighting chance. She seems to recognize my voice, or it’s familiar enough. The call lasted forty-five seconds. 

Jeff: Hi. How are you? 

Mom: What’s doin? 

Jeff: Oh just looking at some old photos of you and Doris Polley? 

Mom: Oh she was quite a gal (her preferred term of endearment). We had a LOT of fun together. 

Jeff: How did you meet her? 

Mom: (She gets quiet and stammers.) I don’t remember. 

Jeff: Oh Mom I’m sorry. I didn’t need to make you feel bad for trying to remember. 

Mom: Alright…. Click. 

Jeff: Mom…Mom….Mom?....... 

Poof! She is gone. Her limit is reached. There’s nothing else to be said. No more thinking. She simply cannot continue.   

A phone call with Mom is an attempt to lay out a conversation path for her. To mention people like Doris Polly, Feen McGall or Hokie Lilholt. Madlyn Miller, Naomi Gregg or Carmen Curran. She will brighten up at the sound of each name, yet doubt she can recall the person. There is no time to make a connection for her. It’s just seconds. I’ve heard her draw a blank, time and time again. My words must be chosen carefully to help with this navigation. “Do you remember?” is off limits. I can’t say the “R” word anymore. Honestly, I don’t think she even knows how to remember. Those doors simply do not open. Not locked, but probably rusted shut. At best, she does some window shopping in her mind and there’s not much in the display case that she recognizes. No longer the capacity to bring forth those images of the past. 

 And you know what? That’s okay. I think she’s happy. She’s content, she’s not fighting with those marvelous caregivers where she lives. If the immediate present is all that she can muster, well, so be it. I don’t look at it as though she has forgotten her whole life. It’s just that her whole life now resides between a moment ago and the one not yet arrived. She’s truly in the moment, one she has forgotten and the next, she can’t quite catch up to.  

I’ve been mailing cards lately. A card or note doesn’t require being able to remember a damn thing when reading. She can look at the colors and design, the pretty picture on the cover. Open it up and on the inside somebody has written a message just for her. 

It’s signed. 

Love, 

____________   

And quietly, she says to herself. I think I know that name….I think I might. 



December 2021 - Jeff Raught

10 comments

  • Nohemy…
    Nohemy… Spain
    Love your entries about your mom… you are amazing, Jeff! It’s incredible how you get the best of every moment! It’s just inspiring! Big hug, Nohemy…

    Love your entries about your mom… you are amazing, Jeff! It’s incredible how you get the best of every moment! It’s just inspiring!
    Big hug,

    Nohemy…

  • Melody
    Melody Dementialand
    My Dear Friend JEFF: This is one heck of a bus ride. Although you have accurately described this place, it’s one that we can only assume, it’s one that the resident can’t leave. Much like looking and talking through the windows of the bus. Maybe Oz-like. I hope so. Oz was beautiful. Save my seat!

    My Dear Friend JEFF:

    This is one heck of a bus ride. Although you have accurately described this place, it’s one that we can only assume, it’s one that the resident can’t leave. Much like looking and talking through the windows of the bus. Maybe Oz-like. I hope so. Oz was beautiful.

    Save my seat!

  • Jeff Raught
    Jeff Raught
    Thank you both for your kind words. It has indeed been a ride, but I wouldn't change a thing. It's taught me much along the way. As for Oz. Here's what the Wizard of Oz said to the Tin Man “As for you, my galvanized friend, you want a heart. You don’t know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.” I suppose, but I think the fact that hearts are not unbreakable is where the magic really is. In the healing.

    Thank you both for your kind words. It has indeed been a ride, but I wouldn't change a thing. It's taught me much along the way. As for Oz. Here's what the Wizard of Oz said to the Tin Man

    “As for you, my galvanized friend, you want a heart. You don’t know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.”

    I suppose, but I think the fact that hearts are not unbreakable is where the magic really is. In the healing.

  • Ruth
    Ruth Wall
    I so love your stories about your Mom. We went thru the same circumstances with Charlies Mom, my mother-in-law. Its the stages of dementia that they go thru. You always have to be careful with your words not to upset them. We found that she would remember things and people from ages ago, but not in the present. But those memories make them happy to talk about. She is blessed to have a caring son like you.

    I so love your stories about your Mom. We went thru the same circumstances with Charlies Mom, my mother-in-law. Its the stages of dementia that they go thru. You always have to be careful with your words not to upset them. We found that she would remember things and people from ages ago, but not in the present. But those memories make them happy to talk about. She is blessed to have a caring son like you.

  • Michael Polley
    Michael Polley Phoenix, AZ
    Another wonderful story Jeff. Yes, Marie and "Dorey May" did have a lot of fun together. Mother thought that Marie was quite a gal too. Years later, Mother would be thinking about Marie, start laughing and then would tell me what had tickled her funnybone. And I would start laughing too as I visualized the two of them together. I did some interior painting for Feen McGall. She was so thankful and appreciative. In addition to paying me nicely, she gave me a half dozen freshly baked cupcakes to take with. She was a lovely person. In case you didn't know, our Mom's met when they worked together at Dale Sportswear in the early'50's. They had fun there too. George. Casparian was their boss - Lois Williams was his secretary. I remember. being in Lois's office one day. There was a record player with a large stack of 78 RPMs next to it. George was quite innovative for his time. He was aware of how monotonous factory work could be, and he'd have Lois play music over the P.A. system at different intervals during the day to relieve some of the boredom of the gals out on the work floor. We are so lucky to have had (and some of us still still do have) the parents that were chosen for us. Thank you for jogging my memory of this little vignette that has stayed with me all these years.

    Another wonderful story Jeff. Yes, Marie and "Dorey May" did have a lot of fun together. Mother thought that Marie was quite a gal too. Years later, Mother would be thinking about Marie, start laughing and then would tell me what had tickled her funnybone. And I would start laughing too as I visualized the two of them together. I did some interior painting for Feen McGall. She was so thankful and appreciative. In addition to paying me nicely, she gave me a half dozen freshly baked cupcakes to take with. She was a lovely person.
    In case you didn't know, our Mom's met when they worked together at Dale Sportswear in the early'50's. They had fun there too. George. Casparian was their boss - Lois Williams was his secretary. I remember. being in Lois's office one day. There was a record player with a large stack of 78 RPMs next to it. George was quite innovative for his time. He was aware of how monotonous factory work could be, and he'd have Lois play music over the P.A. system at different intervals during the day to relieve some of the boredom of the gals out on the work floor.
    We are so lucky to have had (and some of us still still do have) the parents that were chosen for us.
    Thank you for jogging my memory of this little vignette that has stayed with me all these years.

  • Michael Boonie
    Michael Boonie Philadelphia
    This is so comforting to read... Insightful, compassionate, soothing, zen... Thank you, Jeff.

    This is so comforting to read... Insightful, compassionate, soothing, zen... Thank you, Jeff.

  • Glenn Schupner
    Glenn Schupner Lawerenceville, GA
    You always pull on my heart strings. God Bless your Mom. God Bless you.

    You always pull on my heart strings. God Bless your Mom. God Bless you.

  • Jeff Raught
    Jeff Raught
    Thanks for all your comments and thoughts. Know that I always read each and every one. I wish the website format would allow me to respond individually, but it does not. Thanks again. I sincerely appreciate the time you took to write a note. - Jeff

    Thanks for all your comments and thoughts. Know that I always read each and every one. I wish the website format would allow me to respond individually, but it does not. Thanks again. I sincerely appreciate the time you took to write a note. - Jeff

  • Pam Richner Stewart
    Pam Richner Stewart Ambler, Pa.
    I think these musings need to go into a book. Love the way you love your Mom....a good reminder to accept our loved ones as they are, in the moment. It's really not about us any more. It's about them. Knowing someone is thinking of you wheather you remember them or not is still a gift. Thanks for sharing your mom with us.

    I think these musings need to go into a book. Love the way you love your Mom....a good reminder to accept our loved ones as they are, in the moment. It's really not about us any more. It's about them. Knowing someone is thinking of you wheather you remember them or not is still a gift. Thanks for sharing your mom with us.

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