|The play set abandoned by a love of soccer & lacrosse. Photo stolen by permission.|
This evening, I told my mother Jean a story, sharing with her something from my Facebook friends Andres & Amy. About Andres chauffeuring their daughter Sophia to her first homecoming dance & about their son Cayo telling his parents that he no longer needed the play set in their back yard but more room for soccer & lacrosse.
Jean wanted to know how old my friends’ daughter was, how old was young man whom her parents think of as “Sophia’s friend who is a boy.” The age of their son Cayo, who no longer needed a play set but more room to explore his passions.
And then we talked about the wooden fort & play set in Jack & Jean’s yard that was such a huge part of raising my sons Nick & Sam. I told Jean that Andres & Amy were selling the set & another family would enjoy it. We kept ours, I said, far too long.
For the Ettinger related children who came after my two sons.
For Felicia Marie, Emily Kate, Johnny Alexander & Sara Jane.
Like my sons, the grandchildren of Jack & Jean grew up & I stopped using the swings to relax & think & remember.
Eventually, neglected & falling apart, the fort & swing set had to be dismantled.
You know, someone said we should not have got rid of it. That there would always be another child.
I reminded her that the set was over 25 years old, that the company, who gave a lifetime guarantee, was out of business. And then I realized, she is not remembering the fort & swing set I bought when Nicholas was two years old. She is not remembering the swing set Sam climbed to the top & across when he was still a toddler.
So I ask her if she is remembering the swing set my father’s parents Papa John & Mother Helen bought when I was a little girl. The one that traveled with us from College Station to Dallas to El Paso & to Meadows Place, Texas. Although the fabulous slide, taller than the top of the swing set, did not make it from El Paso to Meadows Place.
Jean grew quiet & I grew frustrated. I look into her face & say:
Please don’t start a story & not finish it.
I say it & I know that there will be more unfinished stories, remnants of stories, beginnings without endings & endings without beginnings. Seemingly unconnected bits & pieces. Because the memories & stories of Alzheimer’s & dementia are fractal, not linear.
For too many minutes, Jean is quiet. She is thinking, giving herself time to form the words Parkinson’s has made difficult for her to express. Then she says:
I don’t want to waste your time.
Because I don’t want to weep, I laugh & tell her that listening to her memories is never a waste of time. Eventually she responds.
For a long time, there was just you. I did not have Janet until after your father graduated from A&M. But first, we went to Schenectady. You told the neighbors I was a bad mother because I never kept Kool-Aid or suckers. You used to play with a little boy named David.
Jean grew quiet for a long time & I said: That was a lot of remembering for one night. Perhaps it is time for us to go to bed.
As a writer who appreciates fractal thought & discourse, I want to hold onto every fragment, however disjointed, of my mother’s memories. Because in those pieces, in those fragments, is her story.
Or someone’s story.