It was a glorious Sunday in June.
I was heading to the nursing home.
And on the radio, the announcers could not contain their glee as they described Tiger Woods in the final round of the 100th US Open:
He’s got the line…
He’s got the speed…
And yet another birdie!
Over the years, I had heard a lot about Tiger Woods — from my Mother. A golfer in her youth, my Mom was dazzled by Tiger’s soaring career, eagerly cheering him on week after week.
And on that glorious Sunday morning, her favorite son was making history:
…that is phenomenal!
…at his most transcendent!
…a clinic of perfection!
Oh GOOD, I thought as I heard the broadcast. We will have a happy day. We will watch the conquering Tiger, and she will be so pleased.
When I got to her room, she was lying on her back, eating potato chips.
What are you doing? Stop! You are going to choke!
I like this. It’s fun.
Why aren’t you watching golf?!
I wrestled away the chips and sat her in front of the TV.
Look Look Look— it’s your Tiger!
She was more interested in the potato chips.
As I danced around the room and pointed at the screen, she gazed in its direction. Where was the expected elation, the cheers, the adulation for her Tiger?
She did not respond — even when the roaring crowd and delirious announcers celebrated one of the most decisive wins in golf history.
I was crestfallen. What was going on? The ingredients had been perfect.
But I was not able to give my Mother a happy day.
When I arrived the next morning, she was reading The LA Times. Grinning broadly, she exclaimed,
Look Look Look at what Tiger did yesterday! Oh Hallie, I am so sorry I missed it!
But Mama, we watched it.
She quickly looked down. She stared at her hands.
And in a small, sorrowful voice, she murmured:
(Oh my God, what did I just do?)
Until that glorious June Sunday, I thought I was beginning to understand this disease — the memory loss, the fantastical stories, the flashes of anger — but no one had warned me about this latest phenomenon.
In fact, no one warned me about most of the things that unfolded over the next decade. As I look back, I shake my head in wonder. I can only conclude that because her caregivers were overwhelmed, her disease unpredictable, her prognosis dire, it was ultimately no one’s job to tell me what could happen.
On that glorious June Monday, I discovered that dementia meant more than memory; more than fantasy; more than temper.
It meant that my mother could look at the TV and not see it; look at her sport and not know it, look at her favorite son
And simply not care.
On that glorious June Monday, I realized that this disease would always surprise me. I would never fully understand it. And every time I entered the halls of the nursing home, I would find a different version of my Mother.
But no matter which version I encountered, this is what I know:
She was still my Mother.
And she still loved her Tiger.
And she still loved me.
Is this really happening?
Look at this, look at this…
It’s just not a fair fight…!
(All the announcers’ quotes –in bold– are from the actual broadcast, available on You Tube)