Yesterday the boys and I drove to Port Townsend where we met up with my mom for lunch. The weather was perfect; sun, blue sky, light breeze, and a soft layer of fog over the water. We got there about half an hour before my mom’s ferry was to arrive so we drove up and down Water Street noting various restaurants, a cupcake place, and a small grassy park. My mom could only spend about two hours with us so we needed to make the minutes count. And we did. We ate pizza, coloring many-legged aliens and tracing our hands with crayons on white paper while we waited.
After lunch we wandered down the street to the park. The boys quickly made a friend to play pirates with while my mom and I sat on a bench talking quietly, so as not to frighten the children or ourselves, I am not sure which, about the rapid progression of dad’s Alzheimer’s.
It has been about two years, maybe more, since I was really aware of it; much longer for my mom as she has lived with him for the past forty-five years. The last several months have been bad. Really bad. And this week, while not the worst, ranks right up there as one of the top offenders. We had been planning to get together this Thursday for a couple of weeks. We were planning on meeting in the middle of the distance between us and spending a better part of the day together but things lurched sideways the night before. Mom called and canceled her trip, not wanted to leave dad alone. But I felt she needed this. She needed to get away. She needed to see her grandsons. She needed to talk. And I needed it too. So we drove twice as far to see her for two hours. She has an in home care person every Thursday for three hours so we made it work.
After we waved goodbye and watched her ferry leave the dock we found a cute neighborhood park with beach access to burn off some energy before our long car ride home. I sat on the shore watching the boys fish seaweed out of the water, absently picking up pebbles and sea glass while mulling over the days conversation. By the time we had to leave I had a pocket full of beach I decided I must bring home with me. Out of the blue, I told the boys that I was going to store my rocks in my summer treasure jar, an empty fireweed honey jar from the local farmers market.
Today I stood in the kitchen looking at my jar of treasure thinking of my dad and mom. The situation. There is no way around it, no way out of it. I feel as though I can help so little and it drives me to tears. What do I have? I have memories of my dad; my childhood, the rough teenage years, the relationship we have as adults. I can offer those to my mom written on scraps of paper, perhaps rolled around a pencil to make them curl, and placed in a jar. Memories in a Jar. When she finds herself sitting in their house of forty plus years with a man who does not remember who she is, she can read them. She can add to them her own memories. Maybe it will help us all remember just a little bit more. Maybe…