When I was a girl, my younger sister, Kitty, and I would wait eagerly at our playtime tea set table for my mother to deliver our afternoon tea. I remember the deliciousness of the tea almost as vividly as the tea parties themselves. My mother, she’d always drop a cherry jolly rancher into mine and an apple one into my sister’s. We would sit and mimic her and her best friend, Daisy, as their tea time commenced just a few feet away. This was one of the emotional keepsakes from my childhood I will never let go of.
My mother and Daisy were inseparable when we were children. They’d sit and gossip, sipping their tea, while Kitty and I attempted to cross our legs and handle our tea cups, pinkies up, just as mom and Daisy did. When they’d lean in and lower their voices to discuss a piece of the conversation we weren’t privileged to hear, we’d mirror their gestures and whisper our own little secrets. Usually our secrets were just a bunch of babble but we’d look over at them with satisfaction settled on our faces because we, too, had secrets. Sometimes, mom and Daisy would lift their tea skywards and include us in their affair. This was a weekly ritual until we became “too old” for pretend tea parties. Which was probably a little past the appropriate age because we absolutely loved tea time with them. It was a small pleasantry that money could not buy and no one but our mom could offer. Kitty continued longer than I did but even without us, mom and Daisy stayed true to their tea dates.
It was about a year ago that Daisy and her husband moved in with their eldest son across town. Failing health, of course. Something none of us can escape. Embarrassingly, it’s probably been since before they moved that I actually spoke to Daisy. Mom and Daisy seemed to talk less and less once she moved and I just never thought to ask why.
I guess the reason for this nostalgia washing over me is Daisy passed away last week. Up until now, I felt I’ve been very much in tune with the reality of my parents are aging. My father, who is the strongest and toughest man I’ve ever known is so delicate. With two potentially life changing falls in the last year, he is just different. My mom’s Dementia diagnosis was probably the hardest pill to swallow but even in my acknowledgment of our new reality, I think Daisy’s passing put an urgency in my heart. I must spend every moment I can with my parents. I must ensure that their quality of life is the very best it can be. Just like the tea parties when I was little…sometimes being there is what makes the moments.
I know my moments are escaping me. My mother, especially, is worrying me. Although I study every possible thing I can get my hands on, I still will never understand Dementia. I attend workshops, I’ve joined support groups, I do it all. Still, I am never prepared when a calamity brought on by this terrible disease rears its ugly head.
Yesterday at the memorial for Daisy, my mother must have asked me three separate times, whose service we were attending and who was the elderly woman in the oversized photo featured at the front of the room. When I would tell her it was Daisy, mom’s response was that the woman in photo was too old to be Daisy. She and Daisy were the same age, early forties. The women pictured was easily in her 80’s, she declared with authority. I quietly acquiesced.
According to her physician, her mind has “landed” at a time frame in her past and that is how she views herself and the world. We have a long road ahead of us….
Until next time,
Sleepless in Sun City