Saturday, September 17, 2011

Where Did She Go?

Today I wanted to share with you a short story that I wrote...
  for my mother-in-law, Marilyn. 

         Where Did She Go?
                          by Jerri Hines


            Time is a relative thing. Isn’t it? I mean the older we get the faster it ticks away. There are never enough hours in the day. Running late as usual, I stopped by for a quick visit. Have to. Haven’t been by in awhile.

            The backdoor open, I walked in, sliding back the screen door to find Mom sitting in her chair. She smiled up at me, the most beautiful smile. A laugh escaped her, a laugh to die for. The house used to echo her laughter.

            “Oh, it’s you. You have come to visit,” she said.

            I smiled back at her. It’s been years since she said my name. I looked over at Dad. It has been one of those days I can see. His tired worn eyes betrayed him, but not his words.

            Leaning over and kissing Mom’s cheek, I turned to Dad. “Why don’t you go out? I’m here for as long as you need me. Pat is at a dinner for work.”

            “Do you mind? I could run down to the Knight’s?” he asked.

            “Not a problem,” I answered, reprimanding myself. I should have come by more often and watched her for him.

            Realizing in that moment, I have taken my older sister, Donna, for granted. She has taken the blunt of this. Never having married, I had convinced myself she had the time to look after Mom and Dad. Forgetting perhaps, she was my mother, too.

            I watched Dad leave from the window and turned back to Mom.

            “Where did that man go?” she asked.

            I sighed. “He’ll be right back.”

            “Who?” she asked. She stood up and walked toward the kitchen.

            “Are you hungry? Let me fix you something,” I said while following her.

            She leaned down and picked up a tiny, tiny scrap of paper on the floor. I wondered for a moment how could she have seen it. She picked it up and placed it in the palm of her hand.     

            “Do you want me to take that?”

            She doesn’t answer, but I reached over and took it. Throwing it in the garbage, I watched her walk over to the table, rearranging the centerpiece. She turned back to me.

            “Where did that man go?”

            “He’ll be back in a minute,” I answered her again. My eyes caught sight of a stack of pictures at the corner of the table.

            Picking them up, I flipped through them. I held the past in my hand. Pictures of my father fifty years ago. So good looking, smiling in his army uniform. Another of their wedding…baby pictures of us kids.

            So long ago. How I missed those days. Engrossed in the pictures, I didn’t noticed at first she had sat down. She held the picture of my father in her hand. Gently her hand glazed over the face.

            “He’s handsome,” she said, not releasing it but gripping it tighter. She reached for the stack of pictures. I relented and studied her as she looked through them.

            Suddenly the urge surged through me that I wanted her back. I wanted her to take me in her arms as she had when I was a child. Smooth away the pain. To tell me that all would be fine.

            “Everything will be better in the morning,” she used to tell me.

            Instead, she looked up at me. “Where did that man go?”

            “He’ll be back in a minute,” I answered once more. She seemed appeased and went back to looking through the pictures.

            We sat there going through the pictures. I answered her patiently when she asked me who it was.

            “That’s Tommy. Your oldest grandson.”

            “Are you sure?” she asked.

            I nodded. She stared down at it thoughtfully. I saw her mind struggle to remember, searching for something familiar. There had been times in the past when she would break down and cry at this point. Today she went to the next picture.

            How desperately I wanted to share with her my memories. Moments in my life I cherish. Would always cherish. Wouldn’t I?

            I wanted to tell her I would never have survived high school without her. It wasn’t until my children got to be in high school that I realized why Mom stayed up and hugged me before I went to bed. Later in life she told me she just wanted to make sure I hadn’t been drinking. Nothing ever got by her. I wanted her to know I have done the same with my children.

            I chuckled to myself remembering how much she disliked Pat when I began dating him. Never did she come straight out and tell me. No, it wasn’t her way. Subtle remarks here and there. They stopped the day I married. Over the years, surprisingly she formed a special bond with my husband.

Then the vision of her when I was giving birth to Justin flashed before me. Pat was by my side when the doctor said his heart rate dropped and they needed to perform an emergency Cesarean. Being wheeled down the corridor to the OR, I heard her before I saw her. Running down the corridor like a mad woman, she stopped us for a second.

 Bending down over me, she whispered, “I love you.”

I heard her as I was being wheeled away. “I couldn’t let them take her in without telling her…”

            I looked back at her. Oh, God, what happened to my mother? The woman who never forgot a date in her life, a birthday, an anniversary, dates that I didn’t even know meant anything.

            Smiling at me, she asked, “Where’s that man? Suppose he forgot to come back.”

            “He’ll be back in a minute.”

            She nodded. Her head tilted to the side when she came to the next picture, the picture of her on her wedding day. Beautiful, smiling broadly, so happy.

            Her eyes met mine. “Where did she go?”

            More than 5 million Americans are affected by Alzheimer’s. My husband’s mother, Marilyn, is one of them. From a personal perceptive, Alzheimer’s is an awful disease taking from your love ones their memories. I have watched my husband’s family struggle with this fact. At first, I watched a lovely, warm woman struggle to remember simple facts. Frustration sets in. She wasn’t what she wanted to be. Then after another stage, she became more like a child. Accepting what you told her amiably, instead it was his family who endured the hurt. I have watched my father-in-law stand by his wedding vows, for better or worse, in sickness or health, faithfully. When I write a romance, I write about finding a love to last a life time. It happens…I’ve seen it.

            So come Sunday, September 25th, my family and I are walking for Marilyn. My hubbie's idea. In a situation where you don't have a lot of control, he wanted to do something for his mother. If not his, someone's. Marilyn would have liked that. She was always helping someone.
If you are up here in Boston, you are welcome to join us. If you can’t walk, think about a small donation if you can. Every little bit helps. Here’s the link. You can hit donate to a walk participant, then go to Robert Hines (Duxbury) if you want.  Or just hit donate.

Thanks for letting me share. Thank you for caring....


  1. What a poignant post. How ironic that on September 25th, 2011 at 3:00 PM will be a Memorial Service for a woman I loved dearly, "my mother of affection." I've been feeling guilty for having not seen her for a number of years. Besides living a state apart, I had heard that Alzheimer’s had changed this kind and thoughtful human being to where she would randomly throw out mean comments towards her family/relatives.

    Having lost out on the love of two mothers in my life--my birth mother and my adoptive mother, this woman showed me that God still had a plan :). Since having lived with her family as a freshman in high school, "my mother of affection" had been a rock in life. She taught me not only to love myself but shared with me the truly meaning of a bond between a mother and daughter that can't be broken.

    I've been struggling with the reasons why I never went to see her. All I had ever known throughout much of my youth was verbal and emotional abuse. I wanted to keep those fond memories of "my mother of affection," not a woman who didn't know me anymore because of her illness and would be saying things she didn't mean.

    Thanks Jerri for helping me put my heart into words :)

  2. JoAnne,
    You have me speechless. Alzheimer's takes away so much right before your eyes. It's hard to mourn what is lost. Thank you for sharing your story. Keep those memories close for that was who she truly was.

  3. I know we really don't know each other personally, but we are FB friends because of our love for writing. Just wanted to thank you again. Your post really helped me to be able to write something to be read at her Memorial Service on Sunday. You never know when you touch another person's life with the heart of your words. I will be saying a prayer for your Marilyn too on Sunday :)

    I had lost out on the love of two mothers in my life—my birth mother and my adoptive mother. But evidently God still had a plan. Since living with this wonderful, caring family as a freshman in high school, “My Mother of Affection,” as Mrs. Reynolds fondly asked me to call her, had been the rock in my life. She taught me not only to love myself, but shared with me the true meaning of a bond between a mother and daughter that can't be broken.

    I still remember our phone conversation. It was one of those moments when I put my trust in another human being with the part of me that hurts the deepest; “Mrs. Reynolds, I am so excited about being asked to speak at our Women’s Church Retreat, but many of my friends are bringing their mothers. I was wondering if you could possibly please come with me.” With no hesitation, “my mother of affection” answered, “I will be there.” I couldn’t believe this woman with three beautiful daughters of her own would fly all the way up to Oregon from Sacramento to be with me. Together, we had the most amazing weekend of my life. It certainly made up for all those mother-daughter special times that I had missed out on while growing up.

    When I have doubts about my self-worth or who I really belonged to, I think of you with a smile, “My Mother of Affection.” I don’t see your passing away from such a long, good life as one more loss, but rather that you blessed so many of us, including me, with your gifted brush that was always colorfully painting this world a better place. I loved you beyond words.


  4. JoAnne,
    I have always believed that everything and everybody has a purpose. Everyone we met influences us in some way.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the woman you thought of as your “Mother of Affection.” I was touched. I’m sure your “Mother of Affection” was touched by having you in her life as you were by having her. Thank you again for sharing. I’ll let you know how the walk goes…