“Get your jacket, Mamma, “it’s cold out. But, then again, it is Thanksgiving week, you know.”
“Thanksgiving already?” Mamma peered out the window, noting the bare maple trees.
“Thought ya’ll were taking me out for Mother’s Day. Here, I’ll fix supper.” She said, reaching into the freezer for TV dinners.
“Mamma, it’s only 9 AM. Have you even had breakfast yet?” Sara shook her head, tearing off a paper towel to scrap off dried tomato soup splattered on the stove.
“After we go to the doctor’s for a checkup, we’re taking you to a special place for lunch,” Sara said, motioning to her husband, Rick, to help Mamma with her jacket.
She doesn’t even know the season. All the signs point to either dementia or Alzheimer’s, so it’s crucial we get her tested…Then on to introduce her to the home…..
Sara regretted that they couldn’t move her 86-year-old mother in with them. They had enough stress, still caring for a 25-year-old disabled son. With hectic careers and challenges of their own, it wasn’t an option, but they still felt guilty. Besides, Mamma had made it perfectly clear she didn’t want to live with family or anyone else, for that matter.
Shortly after arriving at the clinic, they followed Mamma into an examining room.
“Mrs. Mullins,” the doctor asked, “what state do you live in?
Mamma just stared blankly at the wall with that intense twitch on her upper lip when she was trying to remember something.
“The state of confusion,” she finally chuckled. “Memory may be a bit dull, Doc, but still got have my sense of humor.”
After more tests, the doctor conferred with Sara and Rick, confirming their worst fear. Mamma had dementia.
In silence, they drove away, with Mamma in the backseat, humming her favorite hymn, “Amazing Grace.” And, amazingly, she never forgot the words of her beloved hymns.
“Where we goin’?” She asked in a childlike voice.
Sara glanced at Rick, struggling for the right words.
“Uh, remember….I told ‘ya we’re going to a special place for lunch…..Just gonna visit for now…. so that’s all we’re doin’ today….”
“Tell me, Rick,” Mamma said, changing the subject, “how’s your own dear mamma?”
Rick sighed under his breath.
“Like I’ve told ya over and over, again, “Ma died three years ago.”
“Oh….I forgot….I’m so sorry, dear.”
“Did I ever tell ya’ll about my college days at Clemson?”
Sara bit her tongue, tempted to say, You’ve only told us about Johnny Lickner at least a thousand times. Instead, Sara and Rick just winked at each other, chiming, “Tell us, Mamma.”
“I had this one beau, Johnny Lickner, who’d just come back from the war. Had the dreamiest sapphire green eyes….He wanted to marry me….a fine-lookiin’ soldier, but he wasn’t a Baptist, so I had to say no. But that woulda been God’s Plan B, not Plan A. Glad I married your daddy, instead. Glad I chose God’s Plan A.”
Mamma continued to ramble, reliving her youth. Yet, she couldn’t remember she’d moved from South Carolina to Oklahoma to be closer to her family. Although Sara and Rick had moved her into an apartment down the street, they were still worried. Recently, neighbors had rescued Mamma wandering off at night, more than once, searching for seashells.
“Rick, let’s stop by the beach and gather shells,” Mamma pleaded..
“Remember, Mamma, you live in Oklahoma now.”
“Oh yeah,” she said, drawing a heavy sigh. Sure do miss them seashells, though. Can’t we drive to Myrtle Beach for lunch?”
Rick and Sara exchanged anxious glances. They pulled into a parking lot, next to a sprawling English cottage building, surrounded by rock gardens.
The bowed their heads, praying silently, as Mamma slapped a hand over her heart, blurting, “I pledge allegiance to the flag…”
“We wanted you to see this place,” Sara interrupted, stammering.
Sara and Rick helped her out of the car. Then, walking her through the door, Mamma grew strangely quiet, just staring at a row of wheelchairs.
After a long silence, Mamma peered into a dark room, and whispered, “Wait here. “
She walked down the aisle, staring at a tall wooden cross, and then settled on a front pew. Bowing her head, she began to recite, flawlessly, the entire 23rd Psalm, ending with…
“….I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”*
Listening, at the opened door, Sarah choked back thankful tears.
Maybe Mamma will be okay. After all, God does have the best plan..
*Psalm 23:6 (NAS)
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