A Star in Her Upturned Palm

Without my daily help and guidance, my mother would have perished long ago. She would have starved, or she would have dismantled the house looking for things that aren�t here, or she would have forgotten to take her pills or taken too many, or she would have called the police in a state of confusion and then been taken to the hospital and placed in a nursing home where no one knows anything about her.

As it is, she has lost an amazing amount of ground. I routinely help her complete her thoughts, sentences, and memories. No day passes during which I do not need to remind her of how she and I are related, and of other pertinent details. She forgets things moments after they happen. She declares herself a failure and says she knows she is crazy.

Despite this, there are a great many things she does remember, and remembering them gives her pleasure. If only the pleasure would last. Happiness is rare: it flickers like a storybook star in her upturned palm. She looks at it and smiles. Her smile inscribes itself upon the page. The page becomes a meadow. Then clouds appear. The sky darkens. The book falls from her hand.

If I am to hope anything, or to accomplish anything, it is for her descent to be gentle, less cruel. On any given day, I both succeed and fail in this mission. Good moments are a treasure, and make my efforts seem worthwhile. Sometimes, though, I wonder if I am prolonging her pain and despair. And yet there is no question of guilt, because I know I am doing my best. We are here now, living our strange, sad adventure.

July 16, 2006

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