When my mother’s doctor tells us she has dementia, I want to wave the diagnosis away like a dessert menu.
I want to say, “No thank you, we’ve already had our fill.”
I want to explain how we have spent the last ten and a half years watching the same disease slowly erase my father. His edges so blurred we hardly recognize him anymore. Memories, speech, mobility, all of it faded and gone; stripped threadbare like a lost denim jacket left on a fence post, too long in the rain and sun. Only his twinkling blue eyes tell me he is still in there, but the disease has taught me this too will disappear with time. His body relentless as it goes on without him.
I know a man who lost both his parents when they were far too young. One had a heart attack at 59, the other died in car accident at 52. He tells me our family is lucky. He says he would give anything for just five more minutes with his mom and dad.
I nod and say yes, we are lucky. But what I don’t tell him is that I would give anything for five more minutes with my parents too.
It’s summertime and my father and I have just come in for lunch after a morning of putting up hay.
My mother is standing by the stove, complaining because the deer has been in her garden again.
“You should have seen your father this morning He’s standing at the window and he says to me, Quick, come look. And what do you think I see? A deer eating my roses! I yelled and banged on the window and your father says, What did you do that for? You scared him away.”
“The poor deer,” he says. “He was just trying to have a little breakfast. You should have seen how he was biting off each rose bud one by one. It was interesting. He didn’t want the blossoms, just the buds. I wanted your mother to see how careful he was being.”
Mom lets out an exasperated sigh and turns to the stove to dish up the soup. “If I had had a gun I would have shot them both!”
Dad gives me a delighted wink behind her back.
She sets out the soup and the canister of saltine crackers, a tub of margarine and a jar of Miracle Whip along with an assortment of small plates piled high with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, cold cuts, cheese and bread.
The big farm kitchen is filled with sunshine and through the open window we can hear robins singing and grasshoppers chirping. We talk of rounding the family up and going down to the river later if the weather holds. Maybe we’ll have a wiener roast, hunt for fossils and go for a swim.
Dad and I only have twenty more acres left to rake and bale. He says we’ve never had such a good crop. Mom just needs to finish tying up her delphiniums. She says the delphiniums have never been so beautiful.
And that would be my five more minutes.