It may be impolite to brag about one’s accomplishments, but I’m gonna buck convention and admit my absolute genius for self-delusion. In the past month, I’ve convinced myself that:
- eating large amounts of chocolate won’t result in weight gain if combined with exercise,
- our new grandchild would be born before his/her due date,
- and publishers would snap up my book proposal about post-traumatic stress disorder in children.
If it weren’t for cold, hard facts like:
- my jeans fitting a bit to snuggly,
- our daughter-in-law now a week past her due date,
- and the sweetest rejection letter ever from the first publisher to respond to my agent about the book proposal,
I would still be wrapped in those delusions. Instead, I’ve moved onto new ones. My two favorites are:
- It’s still summer.
- Mom’s holding her own in the fight against Alzheimer’s.
But brilliant foliage of the trees along our gravel road forced the abandonment of the first bit of self-delusion. Two phone calls with Mom shattered the second one.
She called yesterday morning, something she rarely takes the initiative to do. “Any news on the baby?” she asked.
“No,” I answered, “and it’s getting really hard to wait. I was hoping the baby would be born today, on your mom’s birthday.”
“That would have been nice, ” she agreed. “But Jolene, if the waiting’s hard for you, think how much harder it is for Abbey.” She sounded so much like her old self, I wondered if the prospect of being a great-grandmother was winning the war against mental decline.
But she called again later in the afternoon. “What’s my old address?” she asked.
I told her and asked, “Why did you need that?”
“I’m filling out this registration form to prove I live in a different county. It asks for my former address.”
“Is this so you can vote for president?”
“Yes,” she replied. After a pause she asked, “What’s today’s date?”
Now it was my turn to hesitate. Every year until this one, my mother spent all September anticipating her mother’s birthday, talking about her, telling stories, saying she missed her. This year, she didn’t know what day it was, even though I’d mentioned it in our last phone call.
I swallowed and said, “September 27. It’s your mom’s birthday.”
We chatted for a few minutes. I teased her about who she would vote for. I promised to call her as soon as we heard anything about the baby. Then I hung up, let go of my delusion, and faced the truth:
- Mom’s memory is failing.
- Alzheimer’s is chewing more holes in her brain.
On the other hand:
- She knows who she’ll vote for in the presidential election.
- She’s eager for news of her first great-grandchild.
- She can still call and talk on the phone.
She may be failing, but her life, and ours, are rich with memories. And when she can’t remember anymore, we’ll remember for her.
- That’s not self-delusion.
- That’s love.