Running out of Time
|The three sisters and our lovely Mum|
We talked about time today, at lunch with Jackie and Mum. Time and how it passed without our even willing it. "Tempus Fugit," Mum always says.
It’s been quite a while since Alzheimer’s robbed Mum of her memory and time has ceased to have any meaning for her. Tomorrow is distant, anything more than a ten-minute car ride is long and waiting for someone to pick her up is like eternity.
Yet my time here has flown by for her. She rarely remembers that I’ve seen her the day before and I can never stay long enough.
While we waited for the meal to arrive, Mum told us (again) about how upset she had been, thinking we weren’t going to come. She felt terrible and then felt terrible about feeling terrible. She convinced herself we weren’t coming, when in fact we arrived just when we said we would.
“I think time is something invented by man, Mum. It’s a way of measuring things and establishing a distance from one point to another. But what if time didn’t exist? We could just live in this moment and not have to worry about what came next or what had been before. Just enjoy this,” I spread my hands to encompass the table, the place and us.
Something happened just then. I saw it in her eyes; that place where the magic begins and ends. It happened as it does, in a nano-second. She materializes from behind the veil of forgetting, appearing unscathed by the claws of Alzheimer’s oblivion and we are given Mum back for a few minutes.
She held Jackie’s hand in one of hers and mine in the other. No one said a word as she looked back and forth between us, and she got a little misty-eyed. “Do this with your children, won’t you? Promise me you’ll do this. You don’t understand what it’s like to be old, to forget, to have to depend on everyone else for everything. Spending time with you is the most precious thing you could ever give me…”
I choked up. I couldn’t look away, because I didn’t want to miss a thing. It was one of those moments I want to cherish forever.
“We will, Mummy.” We said as one.
“I remember what it was like to have my independence, to get up and go whenever I wanted to, I had a life. I had Brian. I had a family. And now … now there are times when I don’t remember a thing.” She continued to gaze at us.
“I miss Brian so much. Every day I miss him, it’s like time is stuck. But I know he’s here, I believe he’s here…”
“Yes,” we replied, “right here.” As if rehearsed we both pointed to the empty chair at our table of four.
“Do you think I’ll ever get over it?” she whispered and inch by inch, she let go of our hands, turning for her handbag.
As she did, her eyes slid across my face and I saw it, the invisible iron grid crashing down as the vacant, lost look returned.
In a soundless whisper of another nano-second, she was gone.
Time plays cruel tricks. Especially with people who have no recollection of the former or the ensuing. We are so conditioned to living with clocks, calendars, schedules, routines, and prescribed lengths of time, that we are lost without them.
Mum lives in a constant now that’s always resetting itself, so she’s condemned to repeat and repeat herself – yet, paradoxically, the more routine she has, the more settled she is.
Time is never given back to us, time doesn't wait.
Do this with your children, won’t you...?