Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: WAIT (08/30/18)
TITLE: I Lied
By Leola Ogle
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I would kiss her hands, her cheeks, and my heart would ache. “Maybe next week, Mama.” She would not remember my promise, but it would dry her tears for the moment. In the beginning of her time at the nursing home, I would tell her I couldn’t take her with me, but that made her cry harder. So I lied.
She was usually waiting for me when I visited. Her face would light up and she’d smile. “My daughter’s here,” she’d tell everyone within hearing distance. She knew I was her daughter, but dementia had robbed her of my name.
Dementia robbed her of many things. It robbed her of the ability to hold a conversation. It robbed her memories and the knowledge of those who had passed on. “I waited yesterday for Esther.” Her last living sibling, Esther, had passed away six months prior.
“Maybe she’ll come next week, Mama,” I lied. To tell her Esther had passed would make the grief fresh. She frequently asked about one of her ten siblings. Some had been gone for many years. The first time I said, “Alan, Mama? He died twenty years ago,” she clutched her chest and sobbed – gut-wrenching sobs that tore through me like razors. So I learned to lie.
Sometimes life crowded in, consumed my thoughts and time. Days would pass without visiting Mama. It was the one thing she seemed to know – that I visited frequently. “I waited for you.” She would blink back tears, her eyes filled with accusations. “Where were you?” I would tell her things that had happened with my children and grandchildren that hindered me from visiting. Although she knew I had my family, their names meant nothing to her. It was a source of irony that she recalled names from the past but not those in the present.
Then she got a boyfriend – Ted, another resident in the nursing home. At first, I was amused, sure that Ted had no idea Mama considered him her boyfriend. Then during a visit, he lifted her hand and kissed it.
“Hey, knock that off,” I wanted to say, but didn’t. What if Ted had a wife? “It happens,” the staff told me. “It’s harmless.”
It seemed to make her happy, and she no longer waited for my visits. I was not the highlight of her days anymore. “I’m going to marry Ted,” she told me. So, she remembered his name, but not mine. I had to be okay with that. Surely she wasn’t serious about getting married. She had already buried three husbands.
Mama didn’t get married. The day came when Ted wasn’t there. “Where’s Ted,” I asked Mama. She looked at me with a vacant stare. “Ted?” She had forgotten him already.
A nurse said Ted had gone home. “Home? Was he well enough to go home?” I asked. She sighed and pointed upward. Ah, heaven.
Mama once again waited for my visits. I would tell her stories from the past, of my childhood and my sister and brothers. Funny stories of good times. I wasn’t sure if she knew who and what I was talking about, but she would laugh and nod. Then one day I was in the middle of a story when her eyes widened in alarm. She pressed a fist to her mouth and groaned. She repeated the names of my two younger brothers. “They’re dead, aren’t they?”
I could not lie. I wrapped my arms around her and we both cried for my brothers, one who had been gone for twenty years and the other for fifteen. “They’re waiting for you in heaven with Daddy,” I whispered.
“Yes,” she replied.
The day came when I got the call. “Her heart is failing. The doctor says it won’t be long.”
Mama lasted two days. My four daughters and I sat in her room. We waited. We shared stories and read the Bible, trusting God that Mama could hear us. The chaplain came in periodically to offer prayer. The staff kept us supplied with snacks and drinks. Our husbands brought us food.
Mama roused once on the first day of our vigil. “I love you,” she whispered. The next evening she slipped peacefully from this life to the next.
A family reunion awaited her in heaven.
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