“I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir,' said Alice, 'Because I'm not myself you see.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass
After we got home, I made it a point to call and check in with her every morning and every morning it was the same. She was sticking to her usual schedule; going to the gym every day, out a few nights during the week, and then out on Saturday night with her current boyfriend and their friends. Everything was fine, she was fine. That’s what she kept telling me.
But she was lying.
In late January, I got a call from one of mom’s water aerobics friends whom I had never met. She had known my mom for at least 10 years and they visited at the pool regularly. She said she was nervous about calling and made me promise to not tell mom that she was the one who called. She told me that she and the rest of mom’s circle of friends from the gym had noticed that mom had become increasingly forgetful and confused. They had been telling themselves it was a normal part of aging until she asked one of them if she could follow them home. To mom’s apartment. The one she had been living in for almost 30 years.
She went on to tell me that mom had missed several outings and had lately been asking different people to drive her to the gym and back home. They’re all in the same age range and they look out for each other so of course they agreed. She also told me that mom had fallen several times. One of those times she had to be transported by ambulance to the hospital for a cut to her head that was bad enough that they had to use staples to close it.
This was all new to me. Mom never mentioned any of this. She then told me about more little falls and accidents and promised to keep in touch while I figured out what in the hell to do. I asked her to give my number to anyone who wanted it and to make sure they don’t hesitate to call me. Soon after, the phone calls started coming in, followed by emails, and then more calls. They had been worried for so long but they didn’t want to risk making her angry. I was grateful that she had so many people who cared and were willing to watch out for her but they had done it for so long. Too long.
I knew I had to talk to her about what I was hearing. Just thinking about it made me sick to my stomach. This is where it starts. This is where I cross over into a role I never saw myself in. I called mom and told her that her friends were concerned about her enough to call me. She became defensive and demanded that I tell her who called. She started listing the names of her friends but I wouldn’t tell her. Now she was getting angry, telling me that someone was stirring the pot because they were jealous. That’s always been her go to response for any woman who had an issue with her; they’re just jealous. Okay, mom. Not this time.
She denied having any issues at all and told me to stop badgering her; I could tell she was gritting her teeth as she talked. I was trying to be patient and calm but it was getting tough. I told her I was going to keep calling her every morning and, anytime one of her friends called or emailed with a new concern, we were going to talk about it. She hung up without saying goodbye.
I was spinning my wheels at this point. I can address a problem in a hurry if I know what I’m dealing with. This was different, it was as if it was so close I couldn’t see it. I didn’t want to see it. I had just started my first semester back at school since earning my associate’s degree. I already had to sit out one semester because of my surgery and I sure as hell wasn’t going to sit out another one. Selfish, self-involved, immature, awful reaction to something I can’t control. I know. I agree. Every time I tried to close my eyes, all I could see was me unraveling. That, and knowing my mom was scared brought me to my knees more times than I care to admit to.
I’d like to think I’m the daughter who would put my feelings and plans aside and come to my mom’s rescue without a second thought; I could write it like that but it wouldn’t be what really happened. There’s a lot of “I” and “me” in here and it’s embarrassing. But it’s the truth.