So this morning, my mother is still withholding, refusing to speak to me. That’s as may be. I know I’m not blameless in this. My patience grows thin with her thoughtless questions. I get snippy. I know this.
But lately, she’s taken to saying, “Don’t have a cow.” Whenever she forgets that it was she who let the dog out to pee while I was in the kitchen preparing dinner or completely forgets a decision she made about something that matters to her.
I have to face the possibility that she’s not trolling me or being moronic. She may be losing her mental acuity. And that’s something that frightens me. A parent going the way of both my father’s parents–Alzheimers.
Nothing is certain, yet. She’s always been a bit in the ozone–ending up several hundred feet into the yard wearing her slippers, because she started sweeping the walk in front of the door and got carried away. I’ve likened it to the Place of No Mind that Buddhist monks inhabit during deep meditation.
But it isn’t just that, anymore. This is different. Perhaps it’s simply that everything slows down as we grow older. Maybe she’s simply experiencing a shift of focus, in which thoughts receive a different priority. She’s watching her shows, doing her crossword puzzle book that I bought for her. Maybe what goes on outside her little bubble of being just doesn’t make it onto the list of Things Important.
But the alternative has to be considered, too. “Don’t have a cow.” is not a part of her life vocabulary. It’s something she’s picked up somewhere. Not from me or from The Simpsons. I don’t say that and she doesn’t watch that show. My mother isn’t one to change habits suddenly, and I have to face that a change is occurring, whatever its nature.
I think this is a point all children reach, an understanding that a parent is not an immutable institution but a fragile human being, subject to breaking and shifting, the march of time, as it were.