I began the process of unmooring my mother’s possessions from their resting places in her apartment. I wasn’t there for her initial downsizing from the house where she lived with my father. He died in 2007 and she shopped around for a place where she could be happy. She found one, but it was too small to accommodate years of accumulated things. I don’ know how she did it but she did. She seemed happy with her new environs.
“When an old man dies, an entire library burns to the ground; when an old woman dies, a whole school burns to the ground.” This is an African proverb. It holds a lot of meaning to me. Not everyone dies before giving up his library or her school. The insidious plague of dementia robs many people of their internal ‘books’ and ‘teachings’ before their bodies give out. Mom was luck enough to keep her wits right until the end.
Mom’s library and school, in the form of her books and pictures were there today when I went to her apartment. Being there was like being inside skeletal remains. There was no one there to illuminate the lovely things she found too dear to part with.
Not being able to ask her a question, a fact or a remembrance, is not a catastrophe, but it is a reminder of my loss of a witness to the past. I now exist without someone who has known me my entire life. Without pictures, there are only stories of my past that I remember. I remember them but they are stories with no life behind them. How many mothers and children love to relate and hear (respectively) about the day the child was born? There is a dynamic in that interaction.
Where to go from here?
This change is another in the continuing shifting sands of identity. Not only sands of identity, but the sands of time, continually leaking from the top bulb of the hourglass. The proper thing to do would be to concentrate on things of immediate concern. Ideally, the way to live one’s life as one ages is to be in the moment. No stories of the past, no yearning for the future, just being in the ‘now’.
I understand that is how things should be but I don’t know how to do that.
All that being said, I would love to know the names of the people in this family photograph:
Mom told me some names when I came for her 90th birthday party, but they didn’t seem like what she said before. I didn’t write it down back then.