This I Believe

Felicia - Emory, Virginia
Entered on September 16, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: family, illness, love
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This I Believe

I believe I am my mother’s daughter. I believe that when people stop us in the halls of her nursing home and tell us that my mother is beautiful, and don’t we look alike, they are not just making small talk. I think they see not our hazel eyes or long noses or pretty white or white-blond hair but instead our common smile, a smile that links us to a legacy of laughter that is as thick as blood.

I believe my mother knows me. I believe, when people ask if she remembers me, that I am not lying when I say she does. What does it mean, anyway, to know a person? Does it mean that you have to know where she goes when she walks out the door? Does it mean you have to remember how old your daughter is or who she is married to or if she once emerged from a body that is now as much a stranger to you as the memory of the man you married? Do you have to know your daughter’s name?

I believe that there is a knowing that surpasses understanding. I believe when I walk through the doors of my mother’s nursing home, and her eyes light up, she sees past the material world into my soul. Nothing matters more than the fact that I am there with her, holding her hand, talking along with her to toy animals or reading a picture book. Professions, vanities, aspirations, and regret—all disappear when I let my guard down and enter my mother’s world. Her world becomes ours when we are together, and I live consciously in the moment more easily than when I meditate or hike down a rocky cliff.

I believe that a mother’s love is eternal. I believe that Alzheimer’s disease is not the voice of tangled neurons whispering that love is dead. Love grows and winds and twists and finds its way through the brightly lit corridors of a nursing home and through the dark nights my mother rests in bed, fully clothed, shoes on, waiting for another morning to come to her like joy.

I believe in my mother. I believe every word she says when she talks to me in a language only she can fully understand. I know that I need her as much as she needs me. Sometimes I find myself clutching what is left of her life like a security blanket. It is as warm and as fuzzy as dementia can be.