This woman, who made her life as a writer, no longer can hold a conversation, words that used to come so easily evaporate like the dew in the summer sunshine.
A broken hip has left her wheelchair bound. She no longer remembers how to walk.
The faces of her children are no longer familiar, the sound of their voices absent of the recognition that comes from a life shared, the way I knew her footsteps as she walked down the halls of the house on Preston Drive.
Alzheimer's is a bitch.
But that's not what I remember.
I remember eating Italian sausage and peppers, Mom's signature picnic dish, at summer barbeques in the backyard while the kids challenged Harold Thompson in swimming competitions and the adults played bocce on the makeshift court my father had constructed with railroad ties.
I remember memorizing the names of all the rivers and streams in Europe, the Adige and the Arno and the Tiber, their names at the tip of my tongue, ready for the moment when she would slip into a round of "It's Your Nickel," a game she invented to help us remember our European travels.
She taught me how to entertain, how to make people feel comfortable and welcome. I learned that sharing your life with others was the key to great joy and that feeding someone a home cooked meal was the greatest gift you could give them.
That family vacations were important, even if they weren't always fun.
I learned that there is strength in numbers; that we is always better than I.
And I learned that there is nothing more important than family; that the bond between a mother and child sometimes makes us want to live their lives for them; even though we can't.
I sometimes wonder, as I sit with her, if there is anything left of the memories of our lives. If perhaps in some small corner of her memory, hidden under a blanket and an old panama hat, if something remains, like the smell of Christmas cookies wafting through the kitchen, or the twinkle of the sunlight in the morning on Lake Sebago.
Or the name of the river that runs through Paris.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom.