One day last week, Mom had a meltdown. It has been a while since she’d gone through a truly emotional time, but Mom was like a lost, terrified 3-year-old girl who couldn’t find her family. She cried many tears, breaking my heart because I couldn’t break through her sadness.
It started when she couldn’t find her brother, Graham. She wanted him to come pick her up and take her home. (Graham was her older brother who died in the early 80’s.) When I told her that Graham couldn’t come today, she began welling up and tears started trickling down her face. I found a tissue and wiped her tears while trying to convince her that she was safe and at home. She looked at me as if I was trying to trick her.
Although it’s been years since we made the transition, her sadness took me back to the day we switched places. I became the mother/caregiver and she became the child. It didn’t happen all at once, of course, but there was the moment when I realized that my counselor, confidant, and precious friend would never lead me again on this earth. Mom and I had a tough few years in my adolescence and I was enjoying our conflict-free time very much. In that moment of realization, I felt like the floor had dropped away from me. I knew I was losing her, but I couldn’t have imagined what difficulties were ahead.
Mom didn’t recognize me or Laverne during her meltdown. She was a stranger in a strange land and she was crying for someone who knew her to come get her. We looked at the picture of her standing with Grandmama taken sometime in the mid-1980s. She knew immediately who it was: “my mama and me.” I showed her another picture with the two of us together from 2007 and she knew that one, too: “my Donna and me.” When I said that I was Donna, she looked at me so strangely. I must admit that I’ve changed quite a bit in eleven years, especially my hair color and style. I’m not certain that she ever recognized me that day.
It’s heartbreaking for your mother not to recognize you. We’ve certainly had days before where she didn’t know me as a daughter, yet she knew I was a safe person; perhaps a caregiver or, as she used to say, the lady who ran this place. That day I was a stranger to her and most likely dangerous. She didn’t want me to touch her or try to soothe her in any way. She allowed Laverne to continue holding her hand, but Mom didn’t turn to her for solace.
We continued wiping her tears and trying to connect with her. She was inconsolable until Daddy came back. She wasn’t satisfied until he sat beside her and took her hand. She was still sad, but she knew she was safe and she was content. The man who she has loved for almost sixty-seven years was near. He simply said, “All of us deserve a sad day now and then, sweetheart. I’m here now.”