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Nostalgia May 2014

Almost a Saint

By Sy Rosen

I’m worried that the dementia is getting worse. My mom tries to hide it but she sometimes gets confused about what’s going on around her. To help keep her mind sharp I always try to have a conversation with her to jog her memory. I don’t mind doing it. Like I said, I’m almost a saint.

My mother is 91, blind, has diabetes, arthritis, Parkinson’s, mild dementia, and heart problems, but besides that she’s in perfect health. I visit her three times a week at her assisted living facility. Sometimes I only stay for a few minutes but I still count it as a visit because I want to think of myself as a good son. And when I bring her bottles of juice or vitamins and the caregivers say, “Oh you got the good kind,” I feel like I am almost a saint. I know, I’m acting like an idiot trying to build up points for myself, but that’s who I am.

I’m worried that the dementia is getting worse. My mom tries to hide it but she sometimes gets confused about what’s going on around her. To help keep her mind sharp I always try to have a conversation with her to jog her memory. I don’t mind doing it. Like I said, I’m almost a saint.

We usually talk about Brooklyn. That’s where my mom was born and I grew up.

“Do you remember what we did there for fun?” I ask.

My mother nods but doesn’t answer.

“We went to the movies,” I tell her. “In those days there was a double feature and a cartoon and I remember I got in for a quarter.”

“Movies are $2 now,” she says. Of course I don’t correct her. Like I said, I’m almost a saint.

“We also saw Broadway plays,” I tell her.

“Yes, we went to plays.” I could tell she was just repeating what I said so I asked, “Do you remember what kind of plays?”

She was thinking but didn’t come up with an answer.

“Musicals,” I said.

“Musicals,” she repeated.

“Yes,” I said, “we went to musicals like Oklahoma and South Pacific.” I then started to sing “OOOklahoma…”

“You’ve got a terrible voice,” she said and laughed. My mother had a biting sense of humor and I’m glad that she still has it. And she’s right; I do have a terrible voice.

“Do you remember the name of the tuxedo store that you and Dad owned?” I asked.

She shook her head ‘no’ so I said, “Ace Formal Wear.”

“Ace Formal Wear,” she repeated.

“Why’d you name it Ace?” I asked.

“So, uh, it would be first in the, uh, phone book.”

“Right! And everybody who came was happy because they were renting a tux for a wedding,” I added.

“Yes, it was only later that they got miserable,” she said while laughing. As I said, my mom has a wicked sense of humor.

As she talked she became more and more engaged and remembered a bunch of stuff. We talked about going to Coney Island and eating Nathan’s Hot Dogs. I was feeling pretty good about myself. I was almost a saint.

Unfortunately near the end of my visit she told me that Sy came yesterday.

Uh oh. “I’m Sy,” I replied. I hated that she got mixed up and didn’t realize that all this time she was talking to me, her son.

“You’re Sy?” she asked.

“Yes Mom, I’m your son Sy.”

And I could see by my mom’s face that she knew she blundered. That her sometimes jumbled mind had betrayed her. I should have stayed longer but it’s hard seeing my mom like this, so I said I had work to do, kissed her on the forehead, and left. I tried to exit by the side door so people wouldn’t see that I left so soon. After all, I had to keep up my saintly image.

On the way out I was stopped by an elderly man.

“Are you Flora’s son?” he asked.

I nodded, trying to get out of there as quickly as possible, but he kept talking, “She’s a very nice lady. I spoke to her yesterday. By the way, my name is Sy, too.”

I may be almost a saint but I’m a complete idiot.

 

Sy has written for The Bob Newhart Show, Taxi, MASH, Maude, The Wonder Years, and Frasier. He has been married for forty-one years which is great because they say the first forty are the toughest.

Meet Sy