I found the book, one day, just where she had left it — in her lovely white wicker chair, next to her bed with the yellow and white flowered quilt. “Waiting For Autumn”. It was, most likely, the last book my mom held, the last book she tried to read, her place still marked. She would have run her fingers over the embossed decorative cover, contemplating the dragonfly printed there. I pictured her squinting, eyes watering, trying to make out the blurred words. I wonder if she liked what she read? I wonder if it made her dream? She had picked up this book, from my sofa by the window, on one of her visits and started reading it. I gave it to her to take home. So when I came across it a few years ago, while we were packing up her bedroom, I needed to have it back. It was, most likely, the last book my mom tried to read, the last book she held.
Our mom turned 90 in September and we felt fortunate that up until that time she was still living at home, able to go out for the occasional adventure. During the last week of August we went to the county fair and a family birthday party; a true gift for all of us. Now, at the end of September, everything is different. And it causes me to look back, once again.
Growing up, we were a family with troubles and joys, struggles and celebrations. We had times of riding the wave, and times when we were tossed in its surf. But thru it all, or because of it all, we formed a close, tight-knit bond, one to the other. While we learned from dad about being our own person, mom taught us that together we formed a picture of completeness — a one for all, all for one philosophy of sorts.
It is from this whole family picture, ever growing and changing as each new member is added, that the shadow of dad is still seen. Now, due to dementia, there is a forming of the space my mom leaves; a space deeply filled with love and memories. And it is from this place that my sisters and I, our husbands, and our children, keep the memories warm, the home fires still burning, the light still on by how much we love our family, with all its flaws, unusualness, bumps, warts, bruises, and stumbles.
I know from experience that, in time, our little 3-ring circus will re-configure around the spaces, and bond together in a much different way, forming a new picture. And that, eventually, this new family picture will take hold, tying our hearts together, re-shaping our lives.
But, for now, we are caught in the in-between of dementia. I wish, more than anything, our mom could come back to us the way she was. I still catch myself going to the phone to call her, expecting to talk the way we used to. But, there is a truth here to accept now, and only prayer can reach it. And, we know that there is a much better place waiting for her.