I'm the kind of person who skips to the conversation when reading a book.
Paul Harvey used to have a radio spot where he told “the rest of the story.” He would take a well-known story or person, and then reveal the back story that would give insight into something we thought we already knew.
Today, you are going to hear “the rest of the story.”
The other day I had taken Grace and Hannah to visit my mother in the nursing home. My mother is disappearing in dribs and drabs. There is a reason Alzheimer’s is called “the long good-bye.” Little by little, the disease gobbles up memories. It may start with inconsequential ones, but then it begins devouring memories of even the people who are important parts of a person’s life.
It’s been some time now that my mother hasn’t known my name. Occasionally, it will pop out, but, more often, the only way I know that she recognizes me is by her smile. Her face will light up and she’ll greet me when I walk in the room. I’ve taken a great deal of comfort in that.
She answers, “Of course.”
“Okay,” I challenge her, “who am I?”
She’ll smile, tilt her chin at me a little, and say, “I know who you are.”
But I know she can’t remember my name.
At least I get a smile, though.
That is, until the other day. Grace, Hannah, and I came around the corner and found her sitting at a table. I smiled and waved.
“Hi, Mom,” I said to her, but she only glared at me. I pulled up a chair beside her, and she narrowed her eyes and glared some more.
“How are you doing today?” I asked, trying be cheerful and engage her. I watched her set her jaw, clamping her whole face into a frown. She turned her eyes from me toward the last few bites of pancake in front of her.
I asked Hannah to go into Grammie’s room and find a photo album. I thought it might spark something. We flipped through the pictures and I tried to ask her about different ones.
Finally, with a wave of her hand, she said, “I don’t know about all these classifications.”
She turned away from me and I puzzled over what she had said. My father arrived and she perked up a little, but really, for the rest of the day, I was sad that I hadn’t even gotten a smile out of my mother.
Which was why I needed a picture of a smiling gas tank. (See “Finding a Smile“)
And now you know… the rest of the story.
In case you never heard Paul Harvey, here is one of his stories: