Time Travelers

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ImageFor the first time in 50 years, I had an argument with my Mother.

We were chatting on the phone and reminiscing, when the subject turned to my Dad being mad at me.

“You know what you should do?” She said.

 “What?” I could not imagine what she was about to say.

“You should apologize to your Dad.” she said in a matter of  fact tone.

“Apologize?  For What?”

“Just apologize. He’ll like that.”

Then, in a sing-songy voice she continued, “When he gets home, why don’t you just say:  Dad…I’m really sorry…I didn’t mean to make you so mad. Will you forgive me?”

Instantly, I flamed. I could feel my blood pressure rising.

“Mom! I have NOTHING to apologize for!”

“Just do it.”she suggested.

“I didn’t do anything WRONG, Mother!”

“Come on, just apologize!”she said oh-so-very-sweetly.

“NO! Absolutely NOT. I am NOT apologizing to him!”

I stood my ground.

This is embarrassing because my Mother has advanced dementia. And my Dad passed away in 1986.

So yes, I had an argument with my 83-year old Mother….and refused to apologize for something that happened when I was 19… to my Dad who has been dead nearly 30 years.

Ridiculous, I know, and certainly not my proudest moment.

I dialed up my friend Nancy.

She was familiar with  my loving, but head-butting relationship with my Dad, and she is actively dealing with two aging parents . It’s a full circle friendship. I knew she would understand, and most importantly, laugh with me about the absurdity.

“What is wrong with me?” I asked her, after we had finished laughing.

Nancy said, “It’s those damn letters!  You read all those letters, and now YOU’RE  back in the 80’s with Lois!”

Maybe she was onto to something.

I had recently found a box of old letters, written to me throughout both terms of the Reagan Presidency. Letters from high school friends, college friends, and several family members.

I scanned the letters from my girlfriends, and emailed copies to the authors. (More on that, later.)

I also read the letters – all except the dozens from my Mom. I bundled those up and tucked them away for another day. I’ve gotten used to the  current version of my Mother, and I don’t want to reacquaint myself  just yet, with the previous version of her that I miss so terribly.

The event my Mom and I we were reminiscing about during our phone conversation was a coming of age moment for me, in the early 80’s. My Dad was not adjusting too well to my increasing independence, and during our debate of the day, I had outfoxed him for the first time.

He was openly furious.  I was silently victorious. Mom was secretly amused.

It has been one of my Mother’s favorite stories. The former version of my Mother would re-enact the conversation with me and we would have a good giggle.

However the current version of my Mother, who’s  mind was  somewhere back in the 1980’s  during our phone conversation, viewed it differently.

As Nancy had so insightfully pointed out, just maybe those old letters had opened a portal to emotional time travel for me, too.

So during the phone call, there I was, transported back to that summer evening, only to discover my Mom had switched  sides. I had no ally. Like the  cheese in the dell, I  stood alone.

Dementia can be magical thinking. It’s also a trickster, and it certainly keeps you on your toes. As such, our phone conversation quickly turned, and suddenly we were  back to the current day.

My Mom quizzed me.

“Where are you?”

“When did you move?”

“How old am I?”

“How old is your Dad?”

“How old are you?”

I answered truthfully (except for the teensy fib about Dad still being alive.)

She was shocked: “I can’t believe  you’re 50. Well, at least you’re not older than me, yet!”

Magical thinking indeed.

We began to wrap up our phone conversation.

Dad would be home from work soon, and she needed to get home to make dinner. She told me there wasn’t much in the fridge, so she planned to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

We said our “I love you’s” and hung up.

I admit, I was still  a bit miffed.

Hmmmphh. I thought smugly.

I should apologize?  I don’t think so.

SHE is the one who should be  apologizing…for that menu.

That’ll be the first and last time Dad eats a PB & J sandwich for dinner. 

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15 responses »

  1. A great insight by Nancy. Makes total sense. Reminiscent of Jen Lancaster’s book, “Here We Go Again,” where her character relives the 80’s with the knowledge of the present only her change in actions the second time around completely changes lives – not for the better. The great mothers of the world are masters of playing both sides – the nurturing nucleus – maintaining the balance in the home. Your mother was fantastic at appeasing her “Sweetie Pie” and putting it in loving perspective with her children, usually with a giggle. I’m sorry this time around you didn’t get the giggle response. Take a swim at the “Y” for spite. She’d probably get a giggle out of that and I’m sure Art’s getting a giggle out him “winning” the second time around.

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    • “the nurturing nucleus – maintaining the balance in the home”

      YOU are full of great insight!

      Wonder how many miles I swam during all my escapes to the YWCA that summer.

      Yes, Art may have won this round – but his victory dinner stunk!

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  2. Oh Anne, you are the best! Just enjoy your Mom for whatever state of mind she is in, for someday you will miss the absurdity of her mind along with the reality of the day. Miss seeing you sweeti, so hopefully you will be back in Indiana sometime over Christmas, and you need to get your gorgeous self over to see your aunt and uncle! So loved the letter from Jennie that you emailed me, hope you kept it and maybe(?) you could send it to me – I am going to put a scrapbook together for her girls and give it to them when they are older. Have a great Thanksgiving – we are going to try – but miss Jennie so! Hugs, Aunt Carolyn

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  3. What an interesting piece taking us back and forth through time – effortlessly, I might add. Not easy to do. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to deal with what you are experiencing. Reverting back to adolescent behaviors sounds appropriate when you are trying to find that time in your life when you lived with them and found their warmth and comfort surrounding every day. You are a good daughter.

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    • Even MORE great insight!

      The things we do without even knowing it. I finally figured out – I was ticked that dementia stole yet another tried & true giggle.

      Thanks for the sweet words.

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  4. That’s a lot to handle at once! It must be tough to juggle the conversations you have with your mother, but to me it appears that you handle it very well. I still have dreams that I am yelling at my father and telling him off. He died 13 years ago and there was a lot of unresolved anger. I’m with you though, you gotta laugh in order to cope! 🙂

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    • Yep – That cleansing cry thing is waaayyy over-rated.
      I’ll take a good belly laugh over that any day!
      Put all that anger in a letter (or tell-all book) and sleep your way to sweet dreams!
      Thanks so much for reading.

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    • Oh my goodness, she is an absolute delight to spend time with!

      I learned many years ago to have no expectations of her. I’m happy to share a giggle or enjoy a kernel of insight during her rare lucid moments, and just as happy to just sit and be with her during her withdrawn moments.

      Thanks so much for reading!

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