March 27, 2018: One thing I remember is how she knew I was there, even if her back was to me as she walked down the hall. I would stop about six feet away, and she would stop too, pivot first if she were walking in the other direction, or just look up if she were walking toward me. That was before she couldn’t walk anymore because of the drugs.
As soon as she saw me, her face transformed. Her eyes widened, her eyebrows lifted, the start of a smile skipped to her lips my darling. That’s what she used to call me. My darling. The death mask fell away, and my mother was resurrected. She stood, a flesh and blood statue in the narrow grey-white hallway, shimmering with a burst of vitality that was surprising for her 85 years, more so because of the advancing state of Alzheimer disease.
I see her as clearly as if she were in front of me this minute: feet firmly planted, body stooped, leaning forward a little, knees gently bent, elbows setting forearms at right angles to biceps, one of her hands, or maybe both, holding something, a tissue, or a paper cup perhaps.
She would have been on her way somewhere. Her destination unknown. Even to her.
But when she sensed it was me, wherever she’d been headed didn’t matter anymore. She’d pause. I’d wait. Wait for full recognition to dawn in her mind just as immediate recognition had flooded her body. I’d wait without words, giving her brain all the time it needed to remember what her heart and soul knew instantly and instinctively.
We danced like that dozens of times in the narrow grey-white hallway, sometimes for a short time, sometimes for longer before she exclaimed to anyone within earshot: “There she is!” As she spoke, she straightened as tall as she could, her voice strong and confident: “There she is! That’s my daughter. That’s my daughter, Mary Susan.”
And so I was. Her daughter. In that narrow hallway in which neither of us ever would have wanted to be standing, and yet in which we found ourselves bound and connected in ways neither could also have never predicted.
I remember that one encounter repeated dozens of times. Each time a blessing. Each time a deep rediscovery. I wish I had a picture of her like that, other than the one seared into my mind, heart, and soul. I wish I had a picture, or a video, so I could show you, and you could see, how she was. Alive.