Sometimes a story doesn’t necessarily start – it happens in the middle of everything else.
In media res, we call that.
So the setting – in media res: I’m on my phone listening to my mother ask me about my wedding and how it went.
This is four months ago.
My wedding was thirteen years ago. She was there.
The next calls have their moments: surprise at the existence of grandchildren, consistent confusion over which kid I am, but still that attitude; that anger and passion and humor.
I’ve never hidden that I have a weird relationship with my parents. I respect them and even love them. I’d say “like” – on an interpersonal level – is probably too strong a word. They’re too flawed and I’ve learned more from their failures than their successes.
Something was, no something is wrong. Two months later I hear about the missed bills. The apartment needs to be sold. There’s a trip to Florida that ends in an entire week where she disappeared with her boyfriend without a word. I only find out because I call to wish her a happy birthday and it turns out she left her phone behind in NYC.
Back in NYC, she’s the same. Never knows who I am when I call.
After New Year’s, I get a call. An infection. Hospitalization. An SICU stay. I visit and she looks like she’s in her 80’s. She recognizes me but asks me about the baby she delivered. I realize she thinks we’re sitting in Albert Einstein Hospital 20 years ago on the day my brother was born.
My mother had me when she was 20. She had my brother when she was 38 – same age as I am now.
Dementia is in the family. I know this because I watched it eat my great grandmother away slowly, but she lived to 89. She lived 30 years longer than my mother had with this.
I’m doing a lot of math lately.
The infection is clearing up. The SICU stay won’t last for long, but there are so many tubes in her – it’s not an easy thing to see and I’m pretty sure I am actively avoiding it even if the guilt is gnawing at me. She recognized me at least, but still, what the hell happened?
Then there’s next. What’s next? I beg for a stay for her in a rehab maybe; figure out the logistics of moving a woman with dementia down the coast to Florida where the cost of living isn’t horrific and family can help out with setting up a nursing attendant.
I wait for something else to happen while I try to process this mess the only goddamn way I know how.