I found an ocean!
It was a big, blue ocean surrounded by beautiful green coastlines with mountains rising up to the sky.
I longed to explore it.
After looking far and wide for a suitable vessel, I finally found a sea worthy craft that would take me on my ocean travels. A ship with all the amenities including a crew and supplies for the long voyage.
Making a cursory survey of my provisions, boat, crew, etc., I entered my ship and set sail. The weather was perfect to begin my cruise. I sailed onward through calm seas and cloudless skies. I sailed for what seemed like weeks until I bumped up against a sandy shoreline.
What could this be? What land mass have I found? I reminded myself that I must consult my map back in the captain’s quarters later. But for now it was time to explore. It was time for adventure. What surprises awaited us on this mysterious piece of land?
“Time for bed little man.”
What? I looked up from out of the cardboard box I was sitting in and saw my mother coming towards me with a dishtowel draped over her shoulder.
“Time for your bath and then off to bed.” My mother bent down and picked me up with both hands. My cardboard box, err, I mean my ship, began to fall away from me as I rose up into the air.
From my new vantage point high above the scene, I could see the landmass very clearly now with my ship anchored next to its shore; our couch with a cardboard box sitting next to it. On the other side of the living room I could make out the continent from which I had begun my journey, a brown upholstered chair with large armrests on either side of it.
And then there was the vast ocean in between; the light brown linoleum floor that was in our living room on which I had just scooted across inside the cardboard box.
My mother carried me away, through the kitchen door toward the bathroom. I could hear in the distance the water running in the bathtub. Looking over her left shoulder, I watched with sadness as my world of adventure disappeared around the corner.
Sixty-some years later the ocean is gone now. There is no ship. There is no shoreline. There is no ocean. There’s just me and my mother sitting across a table from each other at an assisted living center. And although there’s no ocean anymore, there’s a gulf between us that is larger than all the oceans put together.
Sitting across from me, my mother stares at my face while trying to reach deep down in her memory and figure out who I am. I smile at her, hoping to see some flicker of recognition in her expression. But there is none. The woman who used to carry me away to my bath every night, sits staring at me with droopy eyes, while her gnarled hands rest in front of her on the table.
This is an awkward moment for me. I catch myself wishing that I wasn’t there and I hate myself for thinking that way. But I forge on, wondering what to say or do that would make any difference to her. The years of dementia have taken their toll, robbing her of the ability to recollect the obvious; the fact that she is sitting across the table from her son.
“Hi mom.” I say with a smile. “Do you know who I am?”
“What?” She says, grimacing and leaning forward, the wrinkles in her face deepening.
“Do you know who I am?” I raise my voice a little and lean towards her. “What’s my name?”
She looks away for a second, deep in thought, then looks back at me with a confused look on her face. “You’re Mike?”
I consider it a moral victory that she has mistaken me for my brother. At least we are moving towards the same page.
“No mom, I’m Len.”
I reach out and gently pat her on the hand while I look into her face. “I’m not Mike, I’m Len.” I say, forcing another smile.
August 4, 2014 at 5:03 pm
Thank you for this wonderful post. You expressed the many thoughts and emotions that we feel in this situation; the memories, guilt, happiness and sadness.