I can't really remember when my mother last visited California before she came to live with me at the end of August. There was a time when she came west regularly, and her stays were lengthy and leisurely....until they weren't. Memory correlates events in weird ways, and it is thus I know that the week in 2007 when the racehorse, Barbaro, shattered his leg was also the week that my mom's twin sister lost her leg. Their trips to California had already ended by then, but it would take a page by page search through photo albums to determine when, exactly, the last trip was. It would require further unearthing to figure out what health crisis or incremental decline ultimately clipped the wings of the two sisters who were always willing to come spend time with me and my family. My aunt has since lost her other leg, suffers from dementia, and now lives in a nursing home. My mother plunged into her own swift decline as a result of lung cancer in 2009, but she's spreading her wings again, flying solo nowadays. After a drive to Maine for C's wedding last October she realized she could travel, and this summer managed a two-stage move from east coast to west.
For her 88th birthday, we had a small party Saturday with a half-dozen friends that my mom remembered from her past visits in California. Everyone arrived at once, and the shock of all the years and the way they've changed each of us unleashed a momentary confusion. For a minute, it seemed to me that my mom remembered no one, and that my friends could hardly believe that the tiny woman next to me was my mother. I probably looked more like the mother from their memories than she did. But we all stepped through that threshold from past to present, and there we were eating and drinking and talking.
I'm not sure what my mom wished for, but if I could have a wish, it would be that next year all of us are well enough to remember this party, to recognize one another no matter how time has changed us.