My mother is the youngest of nine children of Mabel and Charles Bennett, and the last survivor of the lot. Her next-oldest sister died a few years ago at age 95. Many of us, including nieces and nephews now spread across the globe, hoped mom—as the last living of the Bennetts—would prevail much like her sister, who was whip-sharp of mind until she neared the end.
But if my 88-year-old mom does live that long, it will prove to be bittersweet, because mom—Joan Bennett—has recently begun to lose her memory at a pace.
There is a childlike element to memory loss. Young curiosity returns, brazen questions emerge, the desire to play rears up from decades of repression, like a beachball freed by bouyancy from submersion in the surf. What is endearing is also embarrassing, and vice versa. Generally speaking, a queasy anxiety overtakes those around her, wondering what next will disrupt the smooth flow of our expectations.
She has been squirreling things away in various hiding places. Last weekend, after we ate at Red Lobster, I found her take-home styrofoam container under her pillow, with the now-smashed half-piece of cheesecake she’d brought home uneaten. She had forgotten about it, as she forgets almost all of her hiding places.
After her nap, I surreptitiously removed it from under the pillow, put it in the fridge, and salvaged a couple of bites before showing it to her. “What’s that” she asked.