Vicki S. - The Realization


It would be my second trip to the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado. But my mom had never been, so we decided to make my next trip there our vacation together. My mom is my best friend, and I looked forward to watching her reaction to the quaint main street surrounded by all those beautiful mountains. She hadn’t been doing so well since she’d had a car accident a few years before.  Trouble remembering where she put things, trouble formulating sentences. I told myself then that she was just growing older. 

One evening after dinner we agreed to meet at a certain spot to attend a movie together. Telluride is a very small town, so it’s easy to get around. I showed her how to get to the theater from the main street, just a couple of blocks up from where we were standing. She went off to collect my jacket from the restaurant where I’d left it, and I went ahead to the theater to save us a place in line. 

We agreed that she would join me in a few minutes.

As I waited in line to be let into the theater, 15 minutes ticked by, then 30. No sign of Mom. The ushers started letting people in, and I decided to go in and save us a couple of seats, thinking that she was just running late. But it was getting dark out. Finally the movie started, and it had now been 45 minutes since we parted on the main street. I left the theater and walked back to our hotel room.  It seemed to me the most logical place for her to be. But she wasn’t there. Next I went to the restaurant where we’d had dinner, but she wasn’t there either. It was now completely dark outside, and in a near panic, I jogged back up to the main street. There she stood, on the corner where I’d left her over an hour ago, looking lost and frail. I will never forget the feelings that surged through me in that moment of seeing her—immense relief, anger, guilt, and then sadness. 

Never before had I seen my mother this way. She was always so strong and self-confident. Now as I approached her she looked at me with frightened, confused eyes. And the first thing I did was yell at her. Why would she worry me like that! Why didn’t she just follow my directions, or ask someone how to get to the theater instead of standing there? She burst into tears, told me she walked up the way I showed her but couldn’t find the theater and got confused. Not knowing what else to do, she just stood on the corner, getting more and more anxious as the time ticked by. I put my arms around her as she cried, told her it was okay. I didn’t mean to yell at her, I was just worried. Much like a mother worries when her children don’t come home on time.

We walked back to our room and the very beauty of the place surrounded us, the looming blackness of the mountains. It was nearly time to go back home to Akron. We talked about how the trees would be changing. Perhaps this too was just another cycle of change in our lives. A mother raises her daughter. A daughter becomes parent to her mother. As we walked down the quiet street, I could sense the sadness in her. I looped my arm through hers. “Someday we’ll look back on this and laugh,” she said. “We’ll be laughing by tomorrow, Mom,” I said, and kissed her.

A year later, my mother learned she had Alzheimer’s.