On a recent Sunday afternoon I visited Mom, plopping on the bed beside her, smothering her with kisses. I was happy to see she was in a good mood, laughing and joking.
But it turned out to be a little too good.
Linda, a volunteer from St. Matthew Catholic Church, knocked on the door to give Mom her monthly communion. She warmly greeted Mom and introduced herself to me. I thanked her for visiting Mom.
Mom pointed to her wheelchair and told Linda, "You can sit down there if you don't pinch your butt."
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As my face sizzled with embarrassment, this gracious woman didn't miss a beat and headed to the wheelchair saying, "I know, I've got a lot to pinch, don't I?"
Linda made small talk with Mom, asking her how she'd been feeling and what she'd doing lately. I was struck by her compassion and grateful for how she sweetly interacted with my mother.
Out of the blue, Mom started talking about a drugstore. Linda took this as a cue to build a conversation around the topic.
"Did you have a milkshake when you went to the drugstore?" she asked Mom.
I could see Mom's wheels turning, thinking back in time. I reminded her of how we used to go to the drugstore when I was a kid and sit at the counter and get a malt together. We'd watch the clerk scoop the ice cream out of the tub and put it in the blender to make our favorite creamy concoction. She nodded in remembrance of this.
"What was your favorite flavor, Rose, chocolate or strawberry?" Linda asked.
Mom pondered that for a few seconds and then excitedly blurted out, "I got a new liquor book!"
I almost fell out of my chair and profusely apologized. Mom had owned a liquor store for many years, retiring at age 78, and I figured her answer must have been related to that memory.
Linda, however, didn't flinch and explained that her mother had Alzheimer's, too, and that she took care of her until she passed at 96.
She told me that Mom reminded her of her mother, both very pleasant women. As Linda tearfully expounded on memories of her mom, my mom kept rudely interrupting, poking at me, asking, "What is it women have that men don't?" I kept trying to shush her up, putting my finger to my lips. But this didn't help.
Finally, in an attempt to quiet her, I whispered in her ear, "Boobs." Big mistake. She kept repeating, "Yeah, they have boobs!" laughing until she wheezed.
Now I wanted to crawl under the bed. This was so surreal, the mother I knew would have never acted like this. I looked at Linda and we both internally chuckled, not wanting to add fuel to Mom's comical fire.
Then Linda knelt down beside Mom and asked her to say Our Father with her. Mom immediately became very serious, and I got teary as I watched her perfectly recite the prayer cheek-to-cheek with Linda.
As Linda lifted the Eucharist up for communion, Mom stopped her and asked, "Am I a nice girl or a naughty girl?"
Before Linda could answer Mom added, laughing hysterically, "Because I always thought I was naughty."
At this point I had to rely on my sense of humor survival skills and join in her laughter.
Although I was sad that we were at this stage in her disease, I was grateful that there is still some spunk left in her - even if it is a bit too raunchy.
Editor's note: In Lisa Moore's column, "Generations," she writes about the challenges and healing she experiences as a member of the Sandwich Generation: those caring for a parent and a child.