I thought that I had posted about this. But maybe I decided it was too depressing? I guess I thought I had posted about a few things but really maybe I spoke to actual present people about them.

In July or August, it had been a while since my Mom had said my name. She is, without a doubt, the best faker in the world. That woman’s social intelligence. She doesn’t really fool me, but she does.  Because when you say “Hey Mom, how are you?” She has never said to me: Who are you weird stranger, I’m not your mother.  Which leaves open the possibility that she does not think I am a weird stranger who thinks I am her daughter. She thinks I’m her daughter. But she wasn’t saying my name.

And then suddenly, we were packing to go to Rhode Island for the engagement party. And my Dad and I are debating what to pack for my Mom — a bathing suit? And my Dad says he doesn’t know where her bathing suit is. I say, it’s in the closet. And my Mom says, “See Katie knows where it is.”  Reader, I wept.

And there was another time in the fall, I was leaving and she said “Bye Katie.” I turned to Greg on the way out the door, crying, “She said my name.”

And then in February I realized, I had to admit to myself. It hasn’t happened in a while. I’m getting much more of that, hello friendly stranger thank you for this hug it is fine vibe.

It shouldn’t hurt so much. It’s not like you don’t know this day is coming. And it’s not like she’s violently attacked me or even pushed off my hug. But you know, looking at your mom and seeing just a placid acceptance rather than recognition. Turns out it sucks.

And it sucks that I’m not really sure she doesn’t know who I am. I’m hopeful every time I see her — will she say my name? Will she do something that shows she’s not being polite, that she knows who I am, or even that I’m her kid?  Did that already happen for the last time?

So, sometime in June I decided to make a summer reading list and actually read books this summer. What I discovered is, I can pretty much pick one thing (running, baking, reading) and I can fit that in plus working. I cannot fit in more than that one thing as evidenced by the lack of running this summer.

If you read any of these books, you should tell me and then we could talk about books. Sometimes I miss that. Remember when I was an English major and I paid lots of money to learn about book and talk about them? Me too.

  1. All My Friends are Superheroes, by Andrew Kaufman

I was really displeased when I finished this because I felt like the plot never really got going. Or there was really no plot. It could have been a short story about superheroes. But at the same time, the characters were fun and I would have liked this if there had in fact been a plot.

2. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This is probably my favorite book I read this summer. It’s not Shakespeare or James Joyce, but I found it really excellent. It’s about a post-pandemic world. There are a number of characters who you follow and their lives overlap tangentially, but the main character is girl. Also, they do in fact perform Shakespeare in the book, so you can feel smart when you read it like, Oh yeah I know all about King Lear. Also also, there is a Star Trek quote. Really, this book was written for me. And, for a post-pandemic novel where 99% of the world population dies in the beginning of the book, it had a pretty happy ending.

3. The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

Also a great book. Sort of reminded me of Alexander McCall Smith (part of it takes place in Africa, main character is a really smart woman who solves problems). It’s totally bizarre, but I really enjoyed it.

4. Sandition by Jane Austen

When I started this, I knew it was unfinished. And I was holding a physical copy, so I could tell it was short. But it was REALLY short. You meet all the characters, and it ends. So while I very much liked it, I can’t really recommend it because you’ll be sad when it ends. (And yes, I’m still counting this as a book read despite how short and unfinished it is).

5. Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriaty

Look, if you want to read a book that’s kind of like Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, but is not that book and takes place in Australia instead, this is your book. But if you don’t really want to read about teen angst in letter form, yep the whole book is letters, don’t read this book. I didn’t hate it, and in fact some parts of it were quite funny, but generally, nothing special. Life is only so long! I can only read so many books! I could have read Station Eleven twice instead…

6. Hello From the Gillespies by Monica McInerney

I do recommend this one, even though it is really silly. General premise: what if you sent out a true Christmas letter by accident to 100 of your nearest and dearest, you know, actually telling people how you feel about your family and what they’ve been up to that year. Also set in Australia. Overall, a great summer/vacation read.

7. Casebook by Mona Simpson

I really disliked this book until about 200 pages in, and then I couldn’t put it down, but then I didn’t really like the ending. But now I can’t remember the ending…hmm. The narrator is a boy who ages from 9 to 18ish during the book. Basically, his parents get divorced and they deal with it and he deals with it. Moves really really slowly. Then gets kind of exciting, then slow again.

8. Yes Please by Amy Poehler

The only non-fiction I read. I liked it. I like Amy Poehler. But it doesn’t seem like she really liked writing a book. Mostly she says at multiple points that she didn’t like it and it was hard. Solution: don’t write a book, just be an awesome lady who makes a great tv show, etc.

9. World War Z by Max Brooks

I don’t want to sound like I hated every book I read, definitely not. But I didn’t really love this either. I think I just thought it would be a more cohesive story. It’s not. But it is well written. I haven’t seen the movie, have you? I found the book pretty hard to read at bed time.

10. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

I liked this a lot. The two main characters were a modern day foster kid and a child who was on the Orphan Train in the 1930s (who is also a character in the present). It was also not Shakespeare, and I think the foster kid’s situation worked out WAY TOO WELL to be realistic. Everything worked out too well to be realistic. But, you know, I’m okay with a book that has happiness in that is maybe disproportionate to real life. Also, the parts set in the past were interesting. Also, also, thinking about it, there were plenty of sucky things that happened in the middle of the book, just the end seemed like, well that extremely nice.

11. Some Luck by Jane Smiley

Okay…so I haven’t actually finished this book yet. But I am about 50 pages from the end. I like it a lot, it’s the first book in a trilogy. Each chapter is a year, so the first book includes the drought, depression, WWII, and the beginning of the Cold War. The characters are all members of a family who live in Iowa on a farm (though the kids grow up over the course of the book and some move). Also, it was reviewed in The New Yorker. So I don’t even feel ashamed of reading it.

I have been waiting on, but have been unable to get ALL SUMMER At the Waters Edge. So it better be amazing when it comes in… Also I had been planning to read The Luck of the Bodkins, but that also proved quite difficult to get.

That’s what I’ve been up to this summer 😀 How about you?

In case you were wondering,  yes,  I feel mixed about father’s day too. It is a very different relationship I have with my father now compared to before my mom was sick.  But I solved this problem by skipping the card and just making my dad a cherry pie and telling him I love him.

Also,  I gave him part of my sanity helping him set up his new computer. Did you know that Google Chrome is  an Internet browser,  while Google.com is a website? Some people don’t get that. . .

Moreover,  I did want to update my mother’s day post and say,  I think my mom had a good day.  Most people like being handed flowers and told they’re loved,  even if they don’t understand why.  And I can’t remember whether it was mothers day or another day,  but within recent memory,  she told me she loved me by name. Which means a lot to me. I feel like I’m sure she knows who I am when she calls me by name.

This is my second mother’s day knowing that my mother has a terminal illness which not only stealing her life, but stealing her brain piece by piece. Last mother’s day, I ignored the day completely. Which is pretty easy when you don’t watch tv as long as you also stay off facebook and away from Hallmark stores.

This year I am trying to not do that. But how can I explain how difficult it is to ‘celebrate’ mother’s day? If my mother had died, I could celebrate what an amazing mother she was. If my mother were still herself, I could celebrate what an amazing mother she is. But instead, my mother is here, but not herself. Not the woman who raised me. Do I celebrate the woman who was here? Do I grieve her loss? Do I try to embrace the person who is here? Certainly, you would hope that I could and would right? But I don’t know how to feel about my mother who is here now. She is more like my child than my mother.

In case you were wondering, there is no Hallmark card for, I love you always, you raised me well, and I am doing my best to take care of you now. They all say, like, to my mother who still teaches me everything, etc etc. Where is the card that recognizes sometimes mothers stop teaching, stop being the caregiver, just stop?

I want to tell you something happy. So I’ll tell you some things that celebrate what my mother was to me. She was tough. She expected the best of me, and she told me when I wasn’t measuring up. She wouldn’t let me play softball with the girls my age because she didn’t think I was good enough. She expected good grades and shows of leadership. But as tough as she was on me in some ways, she would never let anyone ever in the world say anything negative about her kids. She was always talking us up to anyone she met. And as tough as she was, you know, I turned out pretty good. She made me work hard, she made me meet my potential.

She treated me like a grown up with thoughts worthy of conversation from the beginning of my life. We used to lay in bed before kindergarten (mine, not hers), me just talking and her listening and agreeing or laughing. She treasured me.

I am really very sad when I think about the fact that we missed out on closeness I think we might have now. Maybe we would never be best friends. We are very different people. And my parents did not raise me to share the difficult emotions. But as I spun away from her in my teenage years, I was starting to spin back in my twenties. We were going to have an adult relationship. But then she started getting sicker; losing the car, losing herself in the car, losing herself in the neighborhood. We can’t have the relationship that we should have been able to grow. And it’s my loss. Because my mother, she was amazing.

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Puppy is confused,  but kind of likes it.

Don’t know why I’m in such a good mood this morning,  but I should just go with it right? 
Spring is finally here, it’s sunny and at 8am already climbing toward 50. That’s the dream people!

Also,  after marathon training,  preceded by half marathon training,  I’m finally almost in possession of a full set of toenails.  Exciting I know.  Although,  I just started training again,  and haven’t gotten new shoes yet. . .

I thought, since my lack of blogging has taken my readership down to perhaps 0, I could share this with out too much fear of bumming a lot of people out.

A really great and wonderful thing happened today, but it’s impossible to just be happy about it. This morning, I called my parent’s house. Not particularly notable as my Dad and I speak 2-7 times a day. At least. But today, for the first time in as long as I can remember, my mom answered the phone. I literally cannot remember the last time she made the connection, pick up ringing phone and say hello. A year ago? A year and half?

She said hello, and it just, sounded like her. She sounded the way she always sounded all of the thousands of times that I’ve called my parents in the decade since I left their house. Of course, she isn’t they way she always was in that decade, and we didn’t really have a conversation. I said “MOM! You picked up the phone!” and she said “Well, I had to!” And I had no answer to that. And then my Dad, who had also picked up the phone, started talking to me about snow and shoveling. At the end I said “GOOD TO TALK TO YOU MOM” and she said “Bye” or nothing. Who can remember. She was back to being her blank self, not her real self.

Which is of course why this “Hello?” is making me happy/sad and worth writing about. For a second she sounded herself, and when will that happen again? Will I ever hear my mother’s voice when I call the house again? Is this the last time that she’ll pick up the phone? Is it the last time that she’ll tell me she loves me? Is this the last time that she’ll remember who I am?

Alzheimers is the worst because everything that’s sad is miserable. And everything that’s happy is sad. Every good thing that happens may be the last time that good thing happens. Every bad thing that happens is just a reminder of where we’re headed.

And now dear reader, I have officially bummed you out. But don’t be sad ok? I’m trying not to be too. My mom picked up the phone today. Maybe tomorrow she’ll say something else to me.