By Debby Thompson DeCarlo
It was close to 100 today, unusual for Portland, so I got my daily walk in early. I live in the northeast part of the city where the walks are a welcome routine. I carry a mask on my wrist, ready to put it on if needed, and a bottle of water. Often, I listen to podcasts on my phone. Though I've been an avid birder most of my life, flowers are what I watch on my walks in the city. The neighborhood is awash with color, changing daily from spring to summer.
Even before COVID19 struck the world, walking was important to me. Lately, I've been thinking of the rich life experiences walking has given me. I was going through photos recently, and came across one of my mother taken 27 years ago in Wisconsin. She had dementia, and was in an assisted living home not far from where I lived. The day I took that photo began like so many others when I picked her up on a Saturday or Sunday.
She was sitting in the living room with several other residents and jumped up out of her chair when she saw me.
“There’s my sister,” she said, happy to see me. A few minutes later we were in the car, driving west into the lush hills of Vermont township. Lucky, my golden retriever, stuck his head into the front seat and licked Mom’s face.
“Quit pestering your grandmother,” I told Lucky.
“He can kiss his grandma as much as he wants,” cooed Mother.
Lucky gave me a quick look of disdain and then turned his attention once again to my mother. “Isn’t the color glorious?” I said. We were surrounded by red and orange oaks and maples. “Doesn’t it remind you of West Virginia and Ohio?”
“Oh yes,” my mother replied.
I’m not sure if she really did remember her childhood home, but the hills touched something deep inside her.
“We had a good time,” she said. “They had several of them. He did a good job. But that’s the way it goes.”
Most of Mom’s speech was made up of short sentences strung together, making no sense. She couldn't carry on a conversation. If you asked her if she had children, she’d say no. She had no recollection of me as daughter or my two sisters or my brother. She couldn't remember my father, who died in 1978.
Alzheimer’s disease had taken so many memories away. Yet on that lovely day on Lakeview Road, just north of Barneveld, I was thankful Mom’s sunny disposition was still with her. Although she no longer recognized me as her daughter, she was still very recognizable to me as Mom.
On that day in the country, we got out of the car and walked up and down the hills of a friend’s land. I stood and watched for a minute as Lucky bounded down the hill and Mom sauntered along after him, smiling, calling to him, enjoying the beauty and the sunshine of the day.
At the bottom of the hill, Mom kneeled down and embraced Lucky, laughing as he lavished her with dog kisses. She was still my mother in essential, telling ways.
About Debby DeCarlo moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1999 from Madison, WI, where she was a journalist and public information manager at a community college. Since 1999, she's worked as a technical writer, journalist, Home Depot associate, receptionist and retreat center cook. After living in Forest Grove for many years, she moved to a basement apartment in the Portland home of her daughter and son-in-law and grandson. Before COVID19 struck, she traveled to birding destinations in the US several months each year.
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