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.