Be Still and Know

be-still-and-know

I talked to my mom today. I’m sure a lot of you talked to your moms today. It’s probably something as routine as putting on deodorant or brushing your hair.

But I haven’t had a normal conversation with my mom in a while.

She didn’t beat around the bush. I said hello, and she said she might not know who I am tomorrow, and as I heard those words, I sunk down onto the floor of my kitchen. I clutched the phone to my ear while squeezing back my tears, and I sat on my cold kitchen floor and reassured her that she would. That she will always know me, that she is the strongest person I know, and that she’s fought harder battles in her life.

She said she loved me at least three times, like she might never say it again. And I said it back, like she might not hear it again.

The following article has been edited but was previously published on Sisterwivesspeak.com. (No longer available.) I wrote this a year or so ago, maybe longer, and when I reluctantly hung up the phone with my mom, I remembered the words I wrote as they echoed in my head.

******

I save all of her voicemails. All of them. Friends call and say, “Your voicemail is full. I couldn’t leave a message,” and I lie and say that I’m too lazy to delete my messages, but it’s not true. I can’t delete them because one day they may be all I have of her.

I fear losing her. It haunts me.

Losing the mother who I know today, who’s really not the mother I knew three years ago, who keeps changing every year, whose mind might never be “normal” again, who one day might not even recognize my face.

Death would be easier. Death is final and sometimes even fair. But my mother has dementia, and her mind goes through cycles. Sometimes she’s (almost) normal. She’s our now normal, but then there are times when she isn’t. And one day those times will be all that I know.

Glenn Campbell wrote a song called “I’m Not Gonna Miss you,” a song he recorded shortly after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He wrote the heartbreaking lyrics “I’m still here but yet I’m gone…” to help his family understand that the grief would be one sided, that he wouldn’t “miss” them.

I picture a day when I visit with my mother, when she doesn’t know my name, who I am, and it breaks my heart.

Shatters it.

But what’s even more difficult for me to wrap my brain around is that one day, she isn’t going to know who she is. She won’t remember having five kids and keeping an immaculate house. She may not remember how she never met a stranger, how no matter where she was, she could make a friend. She won’t remember that she had the best sense of humor, and her West Texas accent only accentuated her wit. She won’t remember that she could make a room burst into laughter with one of her lines like “madder than a piss ant in a pepper jar.” She won’t remember being a daring child who wasn’t afraid to ride a bull or a horse that hadn’t been broken.

She won’t remember her first kiss.

She won’t remember giving birth to her first child.

She won’t remember all of the funny stories from her childhood.

She won’t remember dancing with my dad.

She won’t remember when she kissed me goodnight.

She won’t remember when she walked me into kindergarten and told me to be brave.

She won’t remember when she whispered in my ear just before I got married that no matter what ever happened in my life I should put myself first. Always.

She won’t remember.

She won’t remember.

She won’t remember.

And what terrifies me more than anything is that she might be scared, and who will be there to comfort her if she doesn’t know who anyone is, if she doesn’t even know who she is?

There’s a song that a friend introduced me to a while back. It often randomly plays from my music library, and every time, it gives me this strange sense of comfort.

I want to comfort her. I want her to know I am always here.

I hope that when she is in that dark and scary place, she can just “be still and know.”

Be Still and Know

I don’t always listen to lyrics. I admit it. I love music and often get caught up in the instrumental parts of the song, dissecting each melody. I rarely ever sing the correct words. I’ve been known to just insert whatever I hear. For example, when I first heard U2’s “Mysterious Ways,” I immediately loved it and went to buy the album. When I walked into my local music store and asked for “Mr. Eastways,” the salesman looked at me like I wore a straitjacket. I sang the line, “She moves in with Mr. Eastways,” and he laughed. True story. Continue reading

Aside

Queen Grimhilde

The snow falls outside my window, a constant reminder of winter, quilting the ground below in a pillow of frost.  As the wind picks up, the flurries rise and fall and whirl in a frenzied tornado leaving the land white from ground to sky.

White.  The absence of color, so majestic.

The forest outside my window tells a story, the howling of the wind, the creaking of the trees in the breeze.  It tells my story.

“I won’t bore you again with it.”

“No, Madame Grimhilde, please do tell your story.  I’d love to hear it…ahem… again.”

“You’re too kind, my dear.  If you would be a darling and fetch me a blanket, and make me a cup of tea, first.  I can feel the chill in my bones today.”

“Yes, Madam, of course.”

“I once was a beautiful young woman, you know,  full of hope and promise, with skin so fair, my mother would say she could see my blood coursing through my veins.  We had little money, my mother and I, and she often would have to beg for food to make it through the week until our next pension.  My father died young in a brutal accident, or so my mother said.  I remember very little of him, but Mother persevered and made me promises of a grander life. She always said that my beauty would win me a prize of a young man, maybe even a prince.  She forced me to stay inside the house, never to meet the sun and suffer its damage.  I spent my days trapped in our cottage. Alone.

“As a young girl, I spent most of my time reading.  I started with the fairy tales wrapping myself in make believe stories of happily ever afters, but as I grew older, the darkness in our little cabin sunk into my soul.  Fables no longer entertained me.  I began to crave more mystic stories, and found them hidden in my mother’s chest, the one I was strictly forbidden to touch, stories of black magic and spells.  Eventually, I learned the craft, but I’m getting ahead of myself, dear.

“One afternoon, I was in the kitchen attempting to brew a love potion  when my mother came bursting through the door.

“‘We have a visitor, Hilde.  Do go and put on your best gown, and please, wash that muck off of your hands.’

“I scurried to my room and retrieved the only gown I owned, the one my mother wore when she married my father.  I brushed off the dust from the capped shoulders and slipped it over my head.  My mother came in and helped me fasten it from behind.  We stared at my reflection in the mirror as she smoothed the silk folds.  Her warped fingers bent like gnarled tree branches around my waist, a testament of the hard work she endured to keep us alive.  I held her hand there, and together we admired my reflection.  She pulled my long black hair into a low plait and fastened it with a red ribbon.  My alabaster skin stood translucent beneath the obsidian silk.

“‘I think I’m ready, mother.’ We heard the hooves and neighing of horses outside.

‘”My dear raven girl,’ she said, ‘Your prince awaits you.’

“My mother greeted our visitor as any peasant greets a lord and bowed as he entered our tiny cottage.  Introductions were made, and we sat at our table.  Before I knew it, my mother poured the young man a cup of the brew I had created.  I pushed my chair out and lunged toward him when I realized what he was about to do, but it was too late.  He took a sip.  And then another.

“He knelt down in front of me and took my slender fingers into his.  ‘You will be my queen,’ he said and kissed the top of the hand he still held.

“I never had a choice in the matter.  A few days later, we were married. My dearest mother died the next day.   I moved into his castle where he lived with his daughter, a little petulant child, plump with being fed too many cakes and given anything her little heart desired, beautiful though with skin as white as snow and lips the color of a ripe red apple.  My husband adored her, even more than he adored me, which was quite a lot.

“The fucking fat bastard wouldn’t keep his hands off of me, always wanting to prod me with his tiny fucking cock, breathing his rank nasty breath into my face as he thrust himself into me night after night after night.  On nights when I refused, my face ached where the tender purple marks littered my skin. Eventually, I stopped struggling.  I thought that maybe one day the gods would bless me with a child, but unfortunately, every month I received a reminder of a body that could not produce life.  Broken.  Barren.  And stuck with that little bitch, Snow White, and her fat disgusting father.

“I could only take it for a few years.   One quiet evening, I fed my husband a beautiful feast.  We were alone in the castle, and I watched his cock swell in appreciation at another excuse for gluttony  just before he fell face down in his plate.  We buried him the next day.

“Snow White was beside herself with grief and a healthy fear of me.  I kept her around as long as I could.  She grew into a beautiful teenager, with a slim waist, full plump breasts and a big round ass that brought all of the princes to our castle to adore her.

“I spent most of my time in my bed chamber with my little pet bird I called ‘Raven’ because he reminded me of Mother. But I could not ignore Snow White and the attention she received from the princes that came from all across the land to get a glimpse of the girl with the fair skin and the red lips.  I noticed more and more that the princes never even looked in my direction.  One day, one had the guile to ask me if I was Snow White’s grandmother.  He fell from his horse to his death on his journey home.  Stupid little man.

“I often stared at my reflection in the only mirror we kept in the castle and eventually moved it into my secret room where I made my potions.  One day, as I looked at myself, the mirror revealed the lines beginning to form round corners of my lips and at the creases of my eyes, the silver wiry hair peeking out around my temples.  The mirror saw the truth and told me I was no longer the fairest in the land.  Filled with rage, I ordered a huntsmen to take that damned child into the forest and kill her, but the noble prick couldn’t do it and came back to the castle begging my forgiveness, which, of course, I could not oblige.

“I learned of where she stayed and followed her about the forest one day, cloaked to keep my skin from the sun, and watched her as she talked to the birds and the rabbits as if she’d gone mad.  That was nearly enough until I saw she she was pleased, happy even.  Her skin reflected the sun’s light, and there was a twinkle in her eye.  The little corners of her crimson mouth turned up on the sides in an obvious smile.  Unacceptable, I thought to myself.  She does not deserve happiness if I cannot have it, too.

“I watched her enter her little cottage and knocked three times on the door after she was inside.  I brought a bundle of candied apples with me, one of her favorite little treats, and when she opened the door, her mouth fell open at the sight of the sweets.  She looked at me, close, as if I resembled someone she once knew but then cocked her head to the side and raised a brow at me.

“‘May I help you with something, old woman,’ she said to me.

“I recoiled at the term ‘old woman,’ but before I could turn and go, she reached down and retrieved an apple from my basket.

“‘Do take a bite, young lady,’ I said to her disguising my voice.

poison apple

“She ate the entire thing in three bites, then licked the gooey sugar from the delicate tips of her fingers.  I watched her fall to the ground, convulsing, white bubbles foaming from her heart shaped lips.  I turned to run back to the castle.  I ran and ran, my breath catching in my chest, muscles aching, until I could no longer make my legs move.

“And then I woke up here, my dear.  I don’t know what happened next.  I’m not sure why Snow White fell.  I only wanted to give her a sweet treat, you see.”

She looks at me now with a smirk.  She doesn’t believe me.  None of them do.  I scoff at her and pull the blanket over my legs and wheel myself back to the window where the white envelopes the landscape.

“Hilde, er, uh, Madame Grimhilde,” she says attempting to garner my attention again.

“Please just go.”  I say, refusing to take my eyes from the snow.

“Madame Grimhilde, I need you to take your pill.”

“No!  Get out of my room.”  Those fucking pills.  They want me to rest, to put me in my bed to sleep until I die, to forget my past, to lay in my own piss and wither away…forgotten.

“Mrs. Grimm, you must take your medicine before dinner.”

“My name is  Madame Grimhilde, and in case I did not make myself clear the first time, I said GET OUT!”

They think I’ve lost my mind. It’s only a matter of time before they come in and tie me to the bed again.  If only my body worked, and I could run and free myself from this prison, feel the snow crunch against my slippered feet and the chill of that unforgiving wind on my cheeks.  Instead I’m trapped here in this room, this place, this hell that is my mind.

“Poor old bag thinks she’s the Evil Queen again,” I hear her whisper to the men who strap me to my bed right before I feel the pierce of the needle.

“Her dementia’s acting up again,” I hear a male voice say, “It’s always worse for the ones who get no visitors.”

And then my head swims into blackness again.

Where is the white?

The white…

White…

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