It has been like living with a time traveler, these days blending together my mother's past and present with occasional remarks about what she wants to do in the future. After all that has happened, aside from her medical ups and downs, Acts of God leading to power outages and freak snow in October, finding out the litany of woes of her neighbors, we try to watch my niece live streaming from Jerusalem, dancing for peace.
My mother's weekly walking buddy, not to be confused with her twice weekly exercise buddy, finally had to place her husband of almost 60 years in a local Veterans' hospital because in his Alzheimer's haze, he "clocked me with his left hand, and he isn't even left handed", plus he had walked two or three miles to the next town, alone, after years of barely being able to walk down the driveway to the mailbox. He and my Dad shared war stories and in the end, when my father's cancer spread to his brain, this man was the only one who really understood my father's then current irrational fear of Nazis and the KGB, lurking in the hospital. The young doctors in their blue scrubs just upped some meds, which only made it worse. George told me to calm him by going along with the hallucination, which I did. I entered my father's fear, as best I could, then told him I could make the Nazis and the KGB go away and he would be safe. We would all be safe.
Then yesterday, out of the absolute blue, my godmother called, depressed and suicidal and wanting to die after knee surgery gone bad. My mother and I listened and tried to encourage her, but then she just hung up on us. I contacted one of her sons, who has been disabled for many years now, found out how fractured their family had become, and how desperately he tried to keep it all together, but it wasn't working. We talked for 30 minutes, then later he wrote me a poignant and honest email, thanking me for listening. I had suggested a few things and told him for whatever reasons there were patterns and secrets that existed before either of us were born, things we could not change or understand because no one would talk about them. We both agreed that holding onto grudges, holding onto past perceived slights, just ruins your life and those who love you suffer because of it.
So even though it was a beautiful November day in New Jersey, and I really wanted to just wash and wax my car; I was tired in every bone, muscle and brainwave. So my mother suggested sitting on the front porch, in the afternoon sun, like the "little old Jewish ladies did in Bay Ridge". I just said yes, Mom, let's sit on the porch and pretend we're Jewish and talk about things little old Jewish ladies talk about. It was warm; I got pillows; we talked about the color of trees.
Then she tells me she will be going out at night tomorrow to a meeting at her church called "Why Catholic?" I realized we were no longer pretending to be Jewish or maybe we still were. In my fatigue I said," don't let me stop you. If you don't know why you're Catholic by now...." She interrupted me and said, "there's always something new to learn, besides I doubt God keeps a scorecard for the number of times you attend church, or even what religion you are; it's more about how you live your life."