“The years have taken its course,” my mom says. She pauses after that statement, and though it’s poignant it’s hard to determine where she is in the moment. In this final stage of Alzheimer’s I want to believe she is aware of who I am and cognizant of our conversation. But I get the sense anyone sitting with her in this nursing home in northeast Texas could be me. The frame that borders her world is crumbling fast, expunging names, faces, and memories, limiting us to what we can talk about. So I search for what’s left, the familiar that remains. An old story from her past told one more time, not so much for her but for me. I want to be lulled back to when she remembers, and that takes us to her birthplace of Georgetown in then British Guyana.
Her language is jumbled as I jot down her words:
“British had lots of water pushing in … I would stay there awhile … water plunges until it gets to the bottom.”
She becomes frustrated with her unintelligible thoughts, repeating, “The years taken its course.” I notice the word ‘have’ is left out of the sentence and it’s only a few minutes into the conversation. Yet, she reaches back through the years struggling to remember her story she has told many, many times: a teenage girl on the shore looking out at the ocean.
“I would stay there awhile. Watching as the water swirls out and returns crashing on the shore. I would run to the top of this wall made out of stone and run across it … looking down at all the people … people in the water. People with lines in the water.”
“What were the people like?”
“The people in Guyana? What were they like?”
“Oh,” she smiles, “They were good people.”
As she reminisces, my mom observes my daughter who is laying at the other end of the couch watching a show on the Kindle Fire. “Sometimes you feel sad.”
She pokes a finger toward my daughter who giggles on cue.
“How old is she?” she asks.
“Three and a half.”
“She is very wise. Very smart.”
“Yes she is,” I reply and after a few hours it’s time to go. It’s been a good visit. We gather up our belongings and Mom walks us to the exit. I enter the combination into the keypad that lets us out. She waves and I say goodbye.
“Don’t say goodbye. I don’t like goodbye. Say ‘Arrivederci!’”
“Arrivederci!” I say.