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Friday, July 29, 2005

Looka dat gyal, she a cry-cry baby...

"M-O-O-M, that spells Mom"
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In the last 2 years or so, I've started a horrible habit. One that I really should try to break.

More and more, I find that I speak of my mom in the past tense.

This is a horrible habit, namely because my mom is still alive. And it's hard because I love telling stories about her, but the person that she is now is nothing like the person she was when I was growing up -- or even the person that she was, say, 5 years ago.

The summer after my freshman year in college, my siblings and I started to notice that my mom was becoming more and more forgetful. She would ask us the same questions over and over, but without recollecting that she had already asked the question multiple times before.

At first, it really got on our nerves. My mom had always been a great caregiver and we just assumed that she was just trying to be helpful, but figured she could be doing it in a less annoying way. And we didn't hestitate to tell her this. Near the end of the summer, however, we were getting kind of worried and thought that she should probably go see a doctor about it.

It was probably the most difficult to convince my dad that something wasn't quite right. He kept saying that it was a "cultural difference". My mom is from Trinidad, and if you've ever had the pleasure of talking to just about anyone from that island -- they really do have a completely different (and often bizarre) way of thinking (I shit you not -- it's like sometimes they're operating under a completely different concept of time and space). But what was going on with my mom was definitely not a "cultural" thing.

Finally, during my sophomore year, not even my dad could deny that something was wrong and took my mom to a neurologist. Being on the other side of the country at Smith, I didn't really get the whole picture of what was going on. My dad wanted me to concentrate on school, so he kept me in the dark about a lot of stuff so that I wouldn't worry about it (in fact, I did earn the best grades of my entire collegiate career that year -- but I also worried a lot, mostly because I didn't know what was going on).

When I went abroad to Hamburg my junior year, my phone conversations with my mom basically consisted of me telling her about every 5 minutes where I was and when I was planning to come home. Still, it wasn't until I graduated and came back home to Oklahoma that I realized the full extent of the situation.

That summer kicked my ass.

There hasn't been an official diagnosis, but basically my mom has a form of dementia (like Alzheimer's disease) -- but she just turned 55 in March.

At first I was pretty bitter (and angry and sad) about the whole thing. Even more so after reading a bunch of the articles and stuff that my dad has been collecting for the past 4 years. (Wanna surefire way to be depressed for the rest of the day? Then take a gander at the pretty much unavoidable severe stages of the disease)

Sadly, I was also harboring a lot of anger at my mom during this time. I mean I figured I was finally to the point where I could relate to my parents as an adult and I was looking forward to asking my mom why she did a lot of the things she did as a parent. But I slowly realized that it's pretty much a lost cause because she doesn't remember a lot about my childhood, much less why she decided not to let me go to a slumber party until I was in middle school.

I thought a lot about her while I was in Dresden. Mostly because I had shit else to do most of the time when I wasn't working. I thought about how little I knew about my mom as person. I mean I know about a lot of stuff that's she's done in her life (pretty amazing stuff, I might add), but like for instance, I don't even know what she wanted to be (as a kid) when she grew up.

But she probably didn't even think about that stuff, because she spent most of her life taking care of other people. Not only did she raise her own 8 kids, but some of her younger siblings as well. Now that's gangsta.

This led to the (very recent) realization that I should stop being so selfish about what I'm missing out on, because that's totally not what my mom would do if the situation were in reverse. My mom would be very patient, as usual, and just do what she had to do. For instance, if it came to the point where one of her kids were sick and couldn't chew their own food...she'd probably chew it up herself and feed us by hand or something -- and not complain one bit. That's the kind of woman she is.

I mean this is the woman who damn near killed her stepdad for dropping my oldest sister (when she was a baby) onto the hot asphalt in Trinidad. She'd do anything for us without even thinking about it -- and she (for damn sure) wouldn't be resentful about it.

We just need to be more like her, and that's not a bad lesson for anyone.

One thing that's still pretty intact, however, is her sense of humor. She's not as loud and wild as she used to be -- unless she's laughing. She has a great laugh, like the best laugh in the world. It's just a contageous full-body laugh. I don't think the woman ever learned how to giggle. One thing's for sure, it's way better than your laugh -- just sit down and watch I Love Lucy with mom is Lucy.

But black.

So, anyway, I'll end this post with an amusing story about my mom.


As you may or may not know, we (Robbyn, Remy, Cris and myself) didn't have a lot of toys growing up (we were pretty rough on toys so Mom and Dad were smart not to invest in them) so we became creative and made everyday objects into playthings.

Things like hammers and axes. And shovels.

One hot Oklahoma summer, we decided to use some shovels to dig a swimming pool in our backyard. After a few hours of digging we lost interest and decided to go do something else (like perform "surgery" on stuffed animals that we had -- I swear we cut apart and re-sewed just about every teddy bear we owned). Anyway, we left a gaping hole in the backyard (roughly the shape of a small swimming hole).

For years and years, whenever it rained this hole filled up and became like a giant mud pit.

As we got older and more independent, my mom needed a hobby and began gardening. She planted a peach tree and an apple tree in our mud pit and after a few years we had more fruit than we knew what to do with. She also started a vegetable garden with basically the same results. She'd harvest her fruits and vegetables and put them in plastic bags and go around to our neighbors and give them some of the overflow.

Peaches, apples, strawberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, okra ... squashes of all sorts ... were apparently not enough for her. So, she started experimenting with other things:

like grapes...
and corn
and watermelons

You must keep in mind that we live in Ok-la-hom-a ... where we have red clay for soil. Not the most optimal growing conditions for, well, anything. Also we live in a house not on a space was an issue. But not for Mom.

I'm not a big hanger-outer in the nature, because 1.) it's hella hot here and 2.) bugs and plants go hand-in-hand and I don't like bugs crawling on me. So, I haven't really perused the garden since being back. However, this morning I went outside to grab the morning paper and paused for a moment to see what's all growing there now.

It looked like the regular fare: some trees, some flowers, her strawberry patch (some gigantic rocks that she made my dad bring back from some place in Oklahoma for landscaping purposes).

I don't know how I missed it before, but right there near the front door of the house was a strange looking potted plant, and I thought to myself, "Hm that kind of looks like a pineapple."

So, I went over for a closer look. And sure enough...

my mom is growing a pineapple...

in a pot...

in Oklahoma.


If that's not optimism, then I don't know what is.

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