Yesterday at about 4:00 PM, Mom and I took a walk around the neighborhood. The weather was perfect. Absolutely perfect. Not too hot. Not to cold. Clear skies. And a light breeze.
Mom doesn't walk too fast anymore, so our pace was very leisurely. I asked her which way she wanted to go, and she chose to go east on her east-west running street. She commented about how it was getting chillier, but that the weather was nice today. I agreed.
As Mom does every single time we take one of these walks, she commented that she can't remember who lives in these houses anymore. Mind you, Mom has lived in this neighborhood for 50 years, and many of her neighbors have lived here for 30-50 years themselves. Mom can always remember who lives immediately across from her, who lives to the left of her (coming out), and who lives kitty corner to her, but everyone else she seems to be fuzzy on, although sometimes she remembers when I remind her.
And as I always do, I commented on who lives in which house (the ones I still know). Sometimes a flicker of recognition would register, and she would say, "Oh, yes, that's right," and other times it would be as if she had no clue who the individuals I was talking about even were.
As we walked, we saw Mom's partner that she works with in the church library on Sundays. Her name is Lillian, and she has lived in Mom's neighborhood as long as Mom has. She is a sweet, adorable lady who both Mom and I like very much. Mom enjoys working with her in the library.
Lillian asked when I was going to sing in church again. I replied that I sing when they ask me and that I have no control of that. Lillian said, "Well, if I had any power, you would sing every week. I'm going to talk to the bishop. I know he has some power," she laughed.
We enjoyed talking to Lillian for a few minutes, and then Mom and I continued on our way. Mom asked me who lived in this house. I told her it was a couple who had lived there since I was a boy. Mom didn't seem to recognize their names.
"Who lives here?"
"I don't know," I replied. Like a child, Mom mischievously crossed the lawn to the owner's mailbox to see if their name was on it (it wasn't; not that it would have mattered). As we turned the corner, Mom looked through their fence into their backyard.
I pointed to the next house. "You know who lives here, don't you?"
I reminded her who lived there, and she remembered. As we passed each house, she would ask who lived there, and I would say if I knew or not.
We ran into another neighbor, Luwana, who was walking her dog and chatted with her for a moment. I don't think Mom recognized her at first, but it came back to her, and she was even able to tell me that she lived on our street. I said, "That's right."
It was so quiet. So peaceful. So calm. And I reveled in it.
I remember when I went on my mission and hugged my dad for what turned out to be the last time, I felt a prompting to make it count because it would be the last time for a while. Dad ended up dying while I was away.
I felt that same feeling today as I walked with my dear, sweet mother. "Make this count," I felt. "It won't always be like this."
That isn't to say that Mom will pass away soon or that we won't take other walks, but something told me to recognize what I was feeling with my mom in this moment and to hold on to it because it was precious and wouldn't always be like this. It felt almost heavenly.
And I realized that I, who am always busy working or on line or watching TV or movies or doing my own thing, don't always appreciate these moments with my mom like I ought to. Sometimes Mom's care and neediness is suffocating and I need to get away from it. Today, however, I was so happy to be with her even though she is no longer the woman I grew up with.
Mom is very childlike these days. It really is like taking care of a kid sometimes. But she was enjoying the walk and I was enjoying the walk, and we were enjoying the walk with each other, and it felt nice.
We took another turn, and I mentioned another neighbor, and Mom told a story about how she had been walking home from church and that neighbor had picked her up and driven her home, and wasn't that nice?
"Yes, Mom, " I replied. "That was very nice." I'm glad my neighbors are watching out for my mom. A couple of weeks ago, the bishop's wife noticed my mom out walking and asked if she could walk with her. I'm sure it was because she wanted to keep an eye on Mom and make sure she didn't get lost, but Mom was grateful for the company, and it inspired me to ask the bishop to see if he might be able to find a walking companion (or companions) for Mom.
As we reached the end of a street, I suggested to Mom that we turn back because we needed to go to my brother's house for dinner soon. Mom pointed down the cross street and asked, "What's down there?" I told her it was just more houses, and she asked, "Does it go through?" Again, this is neighborhood my mom used to know so well.
"Yes, Mom, it goes through, but it will take us longer to get back home if we go that way, and we have to get home in fifteen minutes so that we can leave to have dinner.
The more I commented about our various neighbors, Mom would say, "Wow, you really remember a lot. But you have a much better memory than I have."
I said, "You used to know who lived in these houses. What happened?"
"I guess I got old," she replied. I laughed. "I guess you did."
We passed some dogs, who barked at us. Mom wasn't scared of them and even talked to them like a kid would talk to dogs, but Mom also said she was very glad there was a chain link between us and them. As Mom and I passed the dogs, she linked her arm into mine and it remained there the rest of our walk, and I felt the love I've always carried for my mom so strongly.
Mom asked, "Don't Olschewskis live in that house?"
"No, Mom. I don't know who lives there. Olschewskis live in that house."
"Oh, yes, that's right. Who lives here?" It's the neighbors to the right of her. She never remembers their names.
"Lingwalls," I answered.
"Oh. I don't think I've ever met them." She has.
We turned the corner and headed towards her house. We saw another neighbor, who's wife also has dementia. I waved to him. He waved back.
We headed down Mom's driveway. I said, "It's time to go. Should we just go now?"
"Do I need my purse?" Mom asked. She's rarely without it.
"Not unless you're planning on buying something at Patrick and Sunny's," I sarcastically replied. She gave me a light jab because she knew I was giving her a hard time. "You're a smart aleck!"
"Yes, I am." We've always had that kind of relationship where we tease one another.
It was a simple walk, but a very lovely walk. And now that I'll I'll be going away soon, who knows how many more like it we will have? Reminds me why the hard days are worth it.