My Mother’s move from her Assisted Living apartment to a single room in the secured area of the retirement facility occurred abruptly. The move happened the day after she “took a walk” on a cold, February night.
Her furniture and household items were given away, but her personal belongings remained boxed up and packed away in my sister’s basement for the next 4 years.
It didn’t seem right to dispose of, donate, or distribute them while as Mom would say….she was still alive and kickin’.
Several months after she died, in an effort to clean out a storage room in my sister’s basement, we sorted through what was left of Mom’s things.
Her coats and special occasion outfits hanging neatly on a rack, looked like a museum exhibit: Grandma Loie’s Wedding Attire 2000-2014.
Two bins held the accessories that made her outfits complete.
It was a strange archeological dig.
The discovery lay in what was, and wasn’t there.
One small box I took home held the contents of her kitchen “junk drawer.”
Everybody has one of those, right?
The contents of this treasure trove included things like rubber bands (likely saved from the evening newspaper), a ball of cooking twine, household string, a partial roll of packing tape, Scotch™ tape, a handful of unidentified keys, and two matchboxes.
It all went straight into my junk drawer. Eventually, I sort of forgot some of the stuff had come from my Mom.
Last week I opened that drawer to grab a Bic® candlestick lighter. It was out of gas and therefore, useless.
I looked down, spotted the matchboxes and grabbed one. I realized it was from McCormick™ & Kuleto’s, and had been my Mom’s.
I smiled thinking of how Mom always grabbed a book of matches on her way out of a restaurant – especially when traveling.
With smoking bans and fewer people lighting up, matchbooks are no longer a staple at hostess stands.
She brought this one home from a visit with my brother & sister-in-law in San Francisco. She enjoyed her visits to Southern California and our time together, but she loved her visits with Steve and Libby.
Thanks to Mom’s matches – the only ones in my house – I could light the candle.
I slid open the matchbox and began to laugh.
No match here.
I laughed at this heaven-sent, practical joke.
I laughed remembering the handful of recent times I’d needed a safety pin, and couldn’t find one. How ironic.
As I held that beat-up matchbox, I had a tangible reminder of the absurdity of dementia.
During my Mom’s nearly 10-year journey with dementia, I quickly learned when a loved one has dementia, you are faced with two choices: Cry or laugh.
I chose laughter. Nearly every time.
I never laughed at my Mom. I laughed at the absolutely ridiculous situations we were faced with, as her dementia progressed. Sometimes she laughed, too.
At some point, the monetary or sentimental value of things became meaningless to my Mom.
Dementia meant diamonds were disposable. Out went her first engagement ring, and her favorite necklace – a heart-shaped diamond pendant with a ruby in the center. There were other items missing, but those two pieces held the most sentimental value.
Long before the Marie Kondo craze, my Mom was in everything-must-go mode.
Dementia compelled her to clear cut her surroundings.
She cut apart books, and cut holes around labels in her beautiful clothes because, you know – irritating tags.
The clean sweep meant everything came off the walls. She tossed her wallet, eyeglasses, photos, countless mementos.
Oh, but not those few dozen safety pins. They were tucked away safely in that matchbox!
While those safety pins might come in handy, I don’t need those temporary fasteners to feel connected to my Mom.
She is firmly stitched into my entire being, and she is woven into the fabric of her entire family.
Occasionally, I see her facial expressions and mannerisms.
I hear family members quote her….both knowingly and unknowingly.
I regularly employ her solid and timeless wisdom.
The things she tossed out that had sentimental value were meaningful because of the memories attached to them.
I’ve learned you don’t need to have the thing — to have the memory.
This Mothers Day, I’m grateful for treasured memories.
And a large supply of safety pins.
I’m also grateful to have had Lois Anne as my Mother.
That was a perfect match.