by Jeff Munroe
I could handle the questions repeated endlessly
like we were in Groundhog Day: Who are you?
Where do you live now? When did you become my
son? You told me a man had been kind enough to
give you a room in his house and when I said that
man was your husband you laughed and laughed.
You kept your good nature and smile as your world
was reduced – first to the apartment, then a room,
then just a chair. In a rare moment of clarity you
looked around and said, “So this is the way it’s
going to be.” No, it wasn’t. It got worse. Confusion
yielded to terror. Words became moans. Your
head was a weight too heavy to bear, your skin was
on fire, your muscles rigid, your eyes endlessly
searched for something, anything familiar. You
forgot to eat, then breathe. There was no point to
any of this. You just suffered. For senseless days,
weeks, months. Who are you? I wondered. Where
do you live now? When did you become my
mother? Like an overdue guest, death finally
arrived, and at your funeral people said the images
of suffering would fade and I would be left with
positive memories. But what I’m left with, besides
the God-awful fear that this will someday happen
to me, is the sight of you slumped in that
wheelchair, incoherent, uncomprehending, my
mother yet not my mother in any way I want to
believe. You couldn’t remember, I can’t forget.
What is memory, anyway? A blessing? A curse?
Jeff Munroe is Vice President of Operations and Advancement at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan.