Mondays with Mom: Alone

Mom is never alone. No matter what she does or where she goes, she always has someone with her. Even when she is asleep in her chair, someone is within a few feet of her at all times. It surprises me, then, why she’s so afraid of being alone. She needs to see someone, not just hear their voice, even if it is in the middle of the night when it’s jarring to turn on a light.

I spent Sunday afternoon with Mom so Dad could go see a movie. (Here’s a quick plug for Unbroken 2: he said it was wonderful.) My Sunday afternoons are mostly occupied with napping so it always seems an easy time for me to spend with Mom – unless she decides it’s not a napping afternoon for her! That was the case yesterday; she didn’t want to nap. I was snuggled in the chair beside her and just dozing off when she called for me. I was less than twelve inches from her so I reached to touch her arm for reassurance.

She did feel my touch, but she couldn’t see me. I was patting her arm and saying, “Mom, I’m right here. Mom, I’m here beside you.” She said, “I hear you, but can’t see you. Where are you?” After a few minutes of fruitless back and forth, I realized I would have to sit up where she could see me. Even that would not do; she was not satisfied until I dragged my sleepy self into the chair at the table facing her and the lamp was turned on to illuminate my face.

Oh well. I thought I could always do desk work and she could see me sitting there. Unfortunately, I was not the one she sought. “Where is Bean?” (my uncle) or “Where is Dwight?” she kept asking. I’d answer that they weren’t here and she wanted to know why. That answer would satisfy her for a few minutes, and then we’d start the questioning all over again.

Occasionally, I would get up for a cup of coffee or get something from another room. Even with her eyes closed and my quiet as possible movement, she would sense that I was missing and start calling for me. If I replied without reappearing in her sight, she would start again: “I hear you, but can’t see you. Where are you?” One time upon my resettling in the chair, I smiled at her and patted her, and she said accusingly, “Did that make you happy to get up?” Whew. There are some days you just can’t win with her.

I suppose it is the years of constant companionship and the feeling of helplessness that makes Mom afraid to be alone. I like to sleep alone without anyone watching over me, but just like a baby, Mom needs to feel and see that we are nearby.

We are never alone, though, if we don’t want to be. It’s an abstract concept that would be impossible to tell Mom, but someone is always nearby. Especially now, with telephones and computers, it’s easy to reach out. If we need our people closer, we can always say like Mom: “I hear you, but can’t see you. Where are you?” and add, as she implies, “Come here!”

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