Word(s)


I am someone who loves to talk, ask any of my friends and they will confirm this about me. I know that I inherited this trait from Miss Cathy, unlike my brother who is what I would call a ‘minimalist’ where conversation is concerned. My mother loves to talk and I grew up ‘loving’ to listen. There wasn’t a topic that was taboo; sex, politics, sexism, racism, feminism, growing up poor in the south and the world at large. There was little she didn’t have a strong opinion about and wasn’t afraid to express it.

I remember I would always volunteer to help her with the Sunday dinner, because I knew that it meant hours of uninterrupted entertainment. I was her eager sous chef, pressing an old jelly jar into dough to help make biscuits along with some other minor duties as she spun tales.

Nowadays things have changed and talking with Miss Cathy is not the same. Of course I’m not a child anymore and I’m no longer eager to learn about life through my mother’s stories. I’ve long since ventured out into the world and now have my own tales to tell.

Not that she’s any less entertaining or as insightful as she always was-she is, it’s just that since her diagnosis there has been a noticeable change in the rhythm and/or the course of her conversations.

I’ve noticed that over the past few months that each time you talk with her you don’t know if or when the conversation will go from the norm to a game of “what’s ‘that’ word I’m looking for?”

It doesn’t really matter what she’s talking about, usually she’s trying to get me interested in the latest bit of gossip about a relative of unknown origin (not that she doesn’t know who they are-believe me she does, it’s just that the blood lines are sometimes so convoluted that I stop listening, hence the title) and I’m about as interested in the conversation as a four-year old is in Nuclear Arms dismantlement.

But, you can’t ‘not’ listen, and somehow you get sucked in and just when I’m about to find out why Aunt Whoitz and Aunt Whatitz hate each other (this week) suddenly, without warning Miss Cathy would stop interrupt her own story and say, “Shoot, what’s that word I wanted to say?”

While she looks around the room as if the word is hiding behind a chair I start ‘free associating’, saying anything that comes to my mind, “uhh,.. move, blow my brains out, slap myself unconscious, move”

“No, no,” she’d say, “that’s not it. Darn, what was I talking about? Oh yes, now what was I trying to say?”

And so it goes, if she didn’t find her “word” we’d either move on to another topic (meaning another relative) or that would be my cue to escape to my room. Sometimes she’d actually find the word, sometimes in the moment and sometimes in the middle of another story.

Oftentimes though, the word is just…gone and her reaction is usually frustration and anger. I’ve found that her emotional reaction varies depending on her overall mood or the time of day. She’s not a “Sundowner”, a person with Alzheimer’s whose symptoms seem to deteriorate as day turns to night. No, it just seems to me that if she “loses” a word in the evening she’s more apt to be more upset because it’s the end of the day and she’s already tired.

Her stories may not fascinate me as they once did, but I still try to listen, even though I‘ve heard most of them more times than I care to remember but now that I think of it that could be a good thing because as she loses a word here or there I’m more apt to be able to pick it up and give it back to her.

So, her words may not be lost after all, she’s just didn’t realize that she gave them to me.

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