I noticed my mother’s memory was seriously slipping in October of 2012, but I know there were signs before that.
She knows me and my two brothers, and my husband, their wives. She knows our children, though she is sometimes confused by who belongs to whom. She knows her 24/7 care giver G. because she has known G. for at least 30 years. She calls her weekend caregiver, J. “that lady” even though J. has worked every weekend for the past year. But she knows she should know J. and allows her to brush her hair, change her clothes, paint her nails in fancy colors. She knows the few friends who visit on a somewhat regular basis.
She does not remember birthdays. Except hers.
She was in Florida from mid January to the end of March. She does not remember the three day drive down, nor the three day return. She was not really aware of where she was when she was in Florida, except she knew it was not home. Within moments of her return she had no memory of being away.
She is not sure who is president, or what year, month, day it is.
She keeps her subscription to the New Yorker and the Sunday NY Times. When they arrive she flips through them carefully. If I am with her she reads out loud articles from the Times and says after each sentence “I don’t know what they’re talking about” or “I don’t know who that is” or “who cares?”. She takes her beat up copy of Joan Dideon’s Blue Nights back and forth from room to room. It is pretty much the only book she has been reading since 2012. I don’t know if she remembers who Proust is, though he was her favorite writer.
She loves her dog, Sweetie.
She continues to defy odds and at 85 still smokes all day every day. She has one watered down scotch and soda every afternoon, and would drink straight scotch all day if she knew where the bottle was hidden. She has a fine appetite. Very little gives her joy. The television is on all day, loud. She can’t follow much of what is on. She does not know any celebrity, even old ones. She never cared much for famous people, except Wally Shawn and Nora Ephron.
I am trying to remember her, my real Mona. Right now I find it hard, because I am presented with this impostor. When this Mona is gone, I hope the memories of the other Mona take hold, come back, and stay.