Tuesday, February 28, 2012


My mother is 81 years old and has small vessel disease.  I had numerous phone conversations with her over the past few years as well as several communications with my father and sisters.  I was aware of her deteriorating condition but nothing prepared me for the echo of the shadow of the woman she had once been. Her quick, motivated gait had been replaced by an uncertain shuffle and her gaze would clear momentarily to express joy on recognition only to cloud over again with simple confusion. She repeated things as if sharing for the first time.  She constantly apologized for not remembering.  A moment later she has already forgotten again.

Oreo is a 17 years old island calico. In human years she would be 84. She has lived in my mother's house almost her entire life.  I don't remember her as a younger cat although I have been home a couple of times since Oreo moved in. She wears scars from a hard life but her fur is immaculately groomed which is impressive considering the staining red dirt of the region.  Each morning she sits in the kitchen, waiting patiently for Mother to feed her.  Sometimes it takes hours as Mother selects a can of food, places it first in one place and then another.  Then she will get a clean dish which she sets on the table or counter, and forgets.  Yet Oreo waits quietly and patiently, staring at the floor until Mother finally remembers and completes the task.

The burden of dealing with a patient who has short term memory loss is heavy and my father is exhausted.  My brother and his family just recently moved in to help ease the load.  I am eternally grateful for all of the sacrifice they have and continue to make.  My parents have worked so hard all of their lives and deserve to be able to relax and enjoy their retirement. This is their chance.

Tomorrow Oreo will wait patiently on the kitchen floor for Mother to decide which flavor of cat food to feed her. It may take an hour or so but she will be fed and she and Mother will enjoy yet another day in each other's company because time ceases to exist in the world in which they share.