Saturday, March 2, 2013

Grasping A Slippery Ledge

“Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past.” --James Joyce, Ulysses
I last saw my mom on December 2, 2011. At that stage she was already confusing name and faces. Forgetting children and close friends. A flickering light of memories, grasping a slippery ledge. It was maddening to get her out of her home, but we managed it. For her safety, it was a must. She and my sister hopped on a train bound for an endless cycle of frustration, turmoil, and the occasional splinter of joy. Now more than a year has withered away.

I talk to Mom a couple of times a week and she seems to remember me. “Doolittle,”—her old and affectionate nickname for me—she starts every conversation with. My sister says, “You will be the last one she forgets.” But what if she has already forgotten? She calls me Doolittle on the phone, but maybe she’s saying it to a ten-year-old boy. When I see her again, maybe my appearance won’t live up to what she’s seeing in her mind. Maybe I should shave this goatee. Lose some weight. Dye the gray in my hair. No, there’s nothing to be done except walk onto her stage like an improv performance artist and waltz to her tune. “Blue Danube,” anyone? Dementia is a kind of natural acid trip for the people suffering from this gives-no-quarter disease. A recent back and forth:

“Doolittle?” a barely audible voice says over the crackling line.

“Mom, why are you whispering?”

“They’re out there, hiding underneath the window so I can’t see them. They’re plotting to break in and rob me,” she says, her voice trembling. “I’m waiting for Blood.”

“Blood? What do you mean? Who’s out there?”

“Those cutthroats. But he’ll come.”

“Who, Mom? Who will come?”


“Blood?” I say again, then dwell on it for a beat before venturing forward. “You mean Captain Blood?”

“Yes,” she says with determination, “and he’ll put these money-grubbing snatchers in the ground.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her we’re a long way from Port Royal.

Maybe I should prepare for our upcoming visit by watching FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS to be in the right frame of mind. Anthropomorphic desert animals! Bats bulleting the sky! Grab a flyswatter. Infuse Gonzo with surrealist Dali’s draping clocks, blank playing cards, and a man with no face. Stir in Dylan’s “Series of Dreams” playing on an infinitesimal Lewis Carroll phonograph. “And there’s no exit in any direction, ‘cept the one that you can’t see with your eyes,” the troubadour warbles. And if I start to get down, I will ask the court jester to do that Zorba dance that so mesmerized Basil.  

Reminds me of another quote, one from Henry Miller, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Yeah, I’m as ready as I’m going to be. Time to make that journey. Eyes wide open, old son. 


Unknown said...

Been there. I hope you find the moment.

Randy Johnson said...

Hope you can. Hope she remembers you as you are now.

Charles Gramlich said...

Not much to say, man, except I hope things go as well as they can. And maybe, that if she can no longer remember everything, you can remember it for her.

Leah J. Utas said...

Grasp as you can.

David Cranmer said...

Thank you, all.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It is very, very hard. But you have to focus on who she was not who she is. That is the real person--the one you will eventually remember.

Sheila Grimes said...

I read your stuff and really don't know how your mother misses doolittle, be he older or younger...she will cry when she sees you...her youngest child...we cradle our children in our hearts forever! Love reading your stuff! Daisy Duck

Ron Scheer said...

As always, I am touched by how you put all of this into words. You are both in my thoughts.

Unknown said...

David, you're a brave man. Losing a loved one is hard. We've all been there. But I can only imagine how hard it must be to lose someone so slowly, knowing what will eventually come.

I think Patti is right on this one. As hard as it must be to accept it, perhaps that moment is in the past. Or perhaps it's right now, as you accept the challenge of holding on and searching and being a good son in spite of such a horrible illness.

Either way, man, I wish you all the best. I hope you find it.

David Cranmer said...

Very true words, Patti. And thank you.

Thanks, Sis. And a BIG thank you to your family. More soon...

Ron, I've edited and re-edited this post no less than six times since yesterday.

Dyer, Thank you for the kind words, sir. And I do understand what Patti is saying and it helps to be reminded.

Dave King said...

Yeah, I'm with Henry Miller, too. Great write. Thank you.

G. B. Miller said...

It's mighty tough when a loved one gradually rides off into the sunset.

And it takes someone with a lot of courage to help delay the journey just a little bit in order to make it a smoother ride.

David Cranmer said...

Reminds me, Dave. There's that HENRY & JUNE film I wanna watch. Never caught it in the day.

My sister is now taking all the knocks, G. I had about four months before mom moved out of her house and it was a (cliche sounding but true>>) a living hell.

Sheila Grimes said...


David Cranmer said...

A very good friend came up with that caricature. I'll probably use it for the next ten years.

Sheila Grimes said...

Waltz To Her Tune

Waltz to her tune, I do every day, stay out of trouble, exhausting …I say!
So where is the line, that divides fake and real, yesterday’s stores, from today’s surreal!
It’s gone forever …never again. It’s all a collage of where you have been
No sense trying to make sense of your wishes, they cannot be, like dry land and fishes.
So how to respond to the things you say, and try to maintain dignity’s way
I don’t know …it’s a daily challenge you see
But I do know hurts …it divides you and me.

you inspired me: waltz to her tune...........see you soon

Gina Rossi said...

My mom doesn't recognize us 3 children, or any of her 7 grandchildren and has no idea she had 7 great grandchildren now, with two baby grand daughters about to be born any minute to bring the total to 9. However, she is utterly convinced she is a writer! Am not sure this is a good or bad thing!She's 95 this year, so it can't go on forever. It's hard letting go earlier than you have to.

David Cranmer said...

Sis, Once again, you nailed it in a insightful and beautiful poem. "But I do know hurts divides you and me." So true. And unless you walk down this tangled, jagged path, well, folks just don't realize how it can rip families apart.

Gina, First,let me wish you and your mom the best of whatever time you have remaining. 95! Wow. Imagine the very different world she grew up in and lived! I bet she had all kind of wonderful adventures to relate. Second, I'm prepared with my mom. It still hurts from time to time but I said goodbye to her on Dec 2, 2011. Cried like a baby. Now I'm searching for an elusive moment or two to connect. Being greedy, I am.

Mates said...

I love you, and wish with all my heart I could be going with you. I had our mother my whole life less than 5 minutes away. My memories are forever locked with places,special events in my life, and the mundane day to day. Sometimes a simple task will evoke a great memory. Like asking my daughter, "Can we stop for a drink?" to which she replied, "Ok Grandma", we both laughed and loved the memory.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

That is rough. Have recently had some similar moments with my grandmother. Peace to both of you.

David Cranmer said...

Mates, Ha. Yeah. She was BIG on getting a soda drink no matter what time of the day.

Thanks, Alyssa.