I miss Mom most when I am sick. I miss being taken care of. I miss her calm and her attention.
I don't think this is just because of Alzheimer's. Even if she hadn't aged decades too fast, I would still miss being a little girl in her care. The fact that she lives in a nursing home now just amplifies my memories of her as nurse for all our childhood ailments.
I remember having the flu when I was four or five. Mom sat with me in the night-light-lit bathroom, reassuring me. I remember how scary it was to throw up, how out of control my little body felt, and how relieved I was when it was over. Mom cleaned up. Mom tucked me back into bed.
I had a 24-hour bout with the flu last week, and those memories resurfaced. I felt alone and weak and wished Mom could make it better; feed me applesauce and saltines, let ginger ale go flat and leave it by my bedside with a straw, check on me in bed.
At age twelve, I had pneumonia. I spent a day in the emergency room because my breathing was so shallow and my wheezing was so deep. I remember I wore my pink Beauty and the Beast T shirt. On the way home from the hospital, Mom bought me a roast beef sandwich at the grocery store. At home, while I waited several days for the inhalers and antibiotics to help, Mom spent nights with me on our hide-a-bed in the living room. This was the ultimate treatment. Only REALLY sick kids got Mom's full attention all night long, like when my sister had influenza, or when my brother broke both his wrists. I kept us both awake most the night coughing.
I remember when Mom was satisfied that I was out of danger, and it was safe to go back to my own room, which I shared with my then five year old sister. I was crushed. I remember crying uncontrollably as I dragged my pillows and blankets down the hall to my room. I was on the mend, I knew it was true, but I didn't want to be better because it meant no more special treatment. I wallowed in what felt like rejection (poor Mom, I know she was exhausted and ready to rejoin Dad in the master bedroom).
Being in her care was like being a celebrity.
It's not being waited on hand and foot that I miss, it's the memory of knowing it was going to be OK. Knowing for sure that I was in good hands.