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I still remember for her

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By Warren Parkin

Feb. 25, 2010

I called my mom earlier this month. It was late for her 9:58 p.m. in Murray, Utah, and late for me, 11:58 p.m. in Levy County, Florida. My mom told me early in January that she'd like me to make calling her more often my new year's resolution. So I did.

Many of you will remember that my mom has an especially aggressive form of dementia. Not only does she have trouble finding her words, she recognizes the impediment and feels embarrassed, for her mind was always so strong. She still remembers her own mother's decade and a half of frustration of living with short term memory failure.  I've been told by my siblings that mom is most coherent first thing in the morning. I thought I'd take a chance, however, and call her at a time when 30 years in the past, she'd be chatting with me before bedtime. The conversation moved slowly enough that I could take notes. What is recorded here is accurate. It serves as an update of the first column I wrote about my mom, "Now I remember for her." Many people contacted me about that column. Because of people's interest, I decided that I should share what is going on with my mom now in her own words.    “Oh Warren, hello. Where are you?” “I’m in Florida, mom, 3000 miles away.” “That’s good. I’m so glad you called. I was just going to sleep.” “Sorry for calling so late, it’s just that I thought you might still be up.” “And I am. How are you doing?” “I’m doing well.” “How are your – what is it, four children at home?” “Yes four. They are doing fine.” “Now how old is your youngest?” “Taylor. He’s ten.” “Taylor? Oh, you’re saying that’s his name.” “Yes, he’s doing well.” “Does he know what he wants to be?” “No. Well yes – right now he wants to be a mechanic like his biological father.” “He comes by it honestly. Grandpa Johnson was a mechanic. He had cars in his yard at his house. It was two levels.  They were wrecked and he would fix them. That was his business to fix those cars. I was just never interested in it. That’s how he made his living in the last years of his life.” “In his retirement?” “No, I guess his whole life. Before that he worked on the Panama Canal and was a handees –that’s what they called them – in Philadelphia.” “Was he the one with swollen knuckles who had arthritis?” “Yes. That was Grandpa Johnson, when he came from Norway. Then his brothers came to find him, his son, maybe two of them, my uncles were mechanics.” “And he was the one who had fingers that couldn’t move and pushed his lawn mower anyway?” “No. That was Grandpa Horton.” She pauses for a moment then continues. “We’re deciding a few toys for the kids to have a nice Christmas. I think they are going to have a good one. I’m so glad you called. So that’s your 10-year old. Now, you are, you are… what?” “I’m 45. I can’t believe I’m 45.” “Yes. 45? So you’re the youngest. Oh, that’s right, you’re last with Wendy. I can’t believe it either. I can’t believe it either.” “Me neither.” “I don’t mean that you’re old. And how is that, oh I can’t find the word, the thing with pictures and words…” “The newspaper.” “Yes. You write for the newspaper, right?” “Sometimes. Kellie is the editor.” “Kellie? Now who’s that?” “My wife.” “Oh. Yes… and how is she doing?” “She’s well. People love what she’s doing.” “I’m so glad. I guess you know Dave died and Barbara sold the house.” “I didn’t know she sold it.” “It was a two story. You worked on it. Did you know Dave died?” “Yes mom. So where is Barbara living?” “In Cedar City. And you heard about the boys? Craig’s boys. Craig can do anything in the, you know – the happy days. Some of our kids are mechanics, like you and several of them keep up the yard. You were born when we, while we were living….you – I don’t know where we were living when you were born. . . .” “On 39th.” “Oh yes, I knew that. Is your wife, is she where she can do some of her talents? Is she making something for the newspaper?” “Yes, mom, Kellie is doing great.” “Good. Well it’s like Christmas to have you here, you know, just to talk to you. Oh, Kellie, that’s your wife huh? Kellie’s your wife?” “Yes mom.” “It’s fun to think about and wondering how Christmas is coming and how things are. That way we can talk to each other and . . . oh I don’t know, I’m getting old.” “How old are you now?” “I think it’s 83 now. I thought it was . . . I don’t know what was going on . . . but I guess it’s for the little girls, but I guess she has some kind a test tomorrow. I can’t remember. But I guess I’ll find out tomorrow. Anyway, I guess we were talking about Christmas, I mean Valentines.” “Yes, it’s coming soon.” “My sister, Carolyn, you know she’s living in . . .” “Nauvoo?” “Yes Carolyn. I miss her. Yes, she loved being in Nauvoo. She’s been there two years. So that’s a lot of time. I’ll be glad when she gets back. I have, have to count on her sometimes.” “You miss her, mom.” “Barbara sold her house. You know Dave was fixing up the other one when he died. Barbara’s had to see to it that it gets done.” “So it’s sold?” “Yes, and people have moved into it. And she’s moved into the house in Cedar City. It’s nice to have that almost finished. Everybody’s busy. That’s all the news I have. I think that it’s wonderful that she could go to a new place and manage it all. I’m glad people are busy and doing what they want to. I’m glad you’re teaching.” She pauses for a few seconds not realizing that I’ve hardly spoken then tells me a secret. “When it’s cold I’m not very social.” I reassure her that it’s alright. (Often I'm not very social regardless of the weather.) “You’re doing fine, mom. You know they told me that you speak best early in the morning but I’m thinking that you also speak well at night.” “Well, this is the best I’ve talked without too much stumbling today. I rest all of the time. I rest all of time. My life is ordered. This person takes me this place, that one takes me to another. I try not to go too much. You know, you don’t want to spend your whole day running around. 45, huh? That time will fly with you doing what you’re doing. Well, you make my day.”  “You have a beautiful mind, mom.” “Yes? Thank you. I think so too." She pauses and then in a low voice confesses, "But there is a problem." “I know. Everyone who loves you knows. You don’t have to apologize for it.” “They do? Oh, thanks. I’m so glad you called. I love you.” “I love you too mom, I hope you sleep well.” “What?” “I hope you sleep well and that you have good dreams.” “Oh. Thanks Warren. I hope you do to. I love you.” “I love you too.” “Good night. Bye.” I hung up the phone, missing my mom and how she used to be, but proud and thankful to know her. I hope she remembers that I called. It will be alright if she doesn't. I'll call again. Maybe we'll have the same conversation. And maybe, next time, she won't apologize.    Warren Parkin, the father of six children, three from him, two from Kellie and another from somebody else, loves all of them. His mother, Darlene, had ten children, five girls and five boys. When he was born with his twin sister the doctor (his grandpa’s brother, his mother's uncle) told his mom she couldn’t have anymore children. She grieved because she wanted more. Warren’s glad she didn’t stop before then. Darlene, who suffers from dementia now, still wishes she had given birth to a dozen.    Warren’s first column about his mom, “Now I remember for her” can be found under Opinion at www.cedarkeybeacon.com. He can be reached at warrensparkin@gmail.com.