"Do you ever wake up in the morning and think..." my mother began with a pause as she filtered her coffee. It seemed like a promising start. Feeling unusually broody as I did this morning, I was fully prepared to tackle some deep, meaningful question. My mother continued: "...and think that you're still a kid and you're going to be late for school?"
This wasn't the level of depth I was hoping for. "No," I reassured her, "I don't ever make that mistake." And truth be told, I don't. Fights with my sister, velour sweatsuits I despised, and the sad disappointment of Santa not bringing me the Cabbage Patch Kid of choice (again) are distant childhood memories that I recall only with a great deal of effort. It isn't denial but a highly effective system of repression that makes my childhood seem pleasingly hazy and distant.
My mother's question did, however, get me thinking about the half-conscious mistakes I do make. A few days ago, a new acquaintance revealed that she was widowed. "Ah. I'm widowed too," I blurted out with perfect sincerity. On quick reflection, though, it occurred to me that I'm not a widow--my mother is the widowed one. It seems I don't confuse myself for a child in my half-conscious moments; I confuse myself with my mother. This can't be completely healthy.
I have a theory that observing people at their most preoccupied will reveal what their natures will be like if and when they develop Alzheimer's/dementia. I'm fully convinced that in her final hours, my mother will rant ad infinitum against her long-dead mother. It will be her last stand against the tyrannical parent whose arguments she could never overcome. Her final hours will be a barrage of comebacks thought of decades too late. And why shouldn't it be so? That's practically what breakfast is like already, and my mother hasn't even lost her marbles yet.
In this same vein, I'm also convinced that in my final hours my identity will be completely consumed by my mother's. While it is some small mercy that this confusion means I won't call out for my mother in my last moments, it seems no more comforting that my last thoughts might include me trying to puzzle out a marriage I never really made to a husband who was actually my father. Undoubtedly trying to figure what I did to raise a daughter who is really my sister will do me in for sure.
"Ah. I'm widowed too." Pause. "I'm sorry. I don't know why I said that. I've never even been married," I stumbled with a smile. At that my new acquaintance drifted off leaving me in peace with my identity crisis to be revisited at inconvenient intervals and for the end of my dementia-laden life.