Monthly I travel to Ann Arbor to visit my mother in an assisted living facility. On this last visit, I took her to get her hair done which includes molding her hair into a virtual sculpture by using enormous amounts of hair spray. We waited in the Secretary of State’s office for over two hours but eventually were able to get her a state ID so she can vote in the upcoming presidential election. We went out for a leisurely lunch, feeding her very healthy appetite. And, as usual, I was in complete denial.
In my denial, I am entertained by my mother’s confusion of fantasy and reality, by her overblown anxieties, by her sense of vengeance. I often do not correct or contradict her. It’s too much work to try to set her aright: Yes, I see the two mirrors leaning against the wall that Chuck (her husband who has been dead for 2 1/2 years) forgot to wrap for the move. Yes, I will wrap them later and get them on the moving truck. —Yes, how could her twin sister at age 89 think about going to Florida and wearing a bikini. I agree that she really must want everybody looking at her! —Yes, it was awesome that her mother (who died over 40 years ago) visited her at her “apartment” last week and how wonderful it was that she was able to sneak her some dinner rolls because they wouldn’t let her mother eat with her. —Yes, that phone call from Denmark, at least that is where the operator said it was from, was very mysterious, from someone whose first name was Lincoln, but too bad she got cut off and couldn’t call back to find out what he wanted. —Yes. She bought the house next door to her previous home in Ohio at a terrific price and no condo fee. She has to move, she said, because they are kicking her out of her “apartment” because she has run out of money. And yes, once again, I will remember to wrap those two mirrors so they can be put in the moving truck.
I left Ann Arbor Tuesday predawn to return to Chicago for a late morning meeting. About two hours into the return trip with daylight finally making itself present, with no radio or podcast to distract, and filled with my mother’s diminished capacities, physical limitations, and utter vulnerability, I just started weeping, steering between the setting moon and the rising sun.