My mother, a healthy, active 86-year old, developed an infection which traveled to her brain. She was completely transformed, bed ridden and frail. Initially, she was only able to say a handful of phrases which, strung together, seemed meaningless: “You know”, "Wow”, and “I was thinking.” Every once in a while, she had moments of startling clarity.
In the next few months, she rebounded and learned to walk with a walker. Her ability to speak returned but her memory was dramatically impacted. She asked questions like, “Was I a good mother?” and “Was I a good wife?” She didn't remember all of her 9 children unless she named them from oldest to youngest. My parents had been married for over 50 years but she'd misplaced her memories of him. It was as if the files in her brain had been randomly ransacked and areas were deleted or mismatched.
In many ways, she was more content because she didn't remember what troubled her in the past. My mother became funnier, even to herself, asking questions like, “What do you call the thing with two holes?” I replied, “Pants?” She called her walker a wagon and most of the time was OK with her mix-ups. It was game we played of remembering and sometimes I got the answers right.
These drawings reflect the space between my mother's mind before and after, memory and forgetting, the frustration of losing something you can’t find again, and the playful moments that sometimes happen when loss is treated like an adventure.