The Document

If my motherís mind were as strong as her body, she would likely remain a vital person well into her nineties. As it is, her excellent physical health is going to waste. Her unreliable memory makes our life together difficult enough, but even worse are the complete fabrications that arise in her brain. Once she thinks something, no matter how impossible or preposterous it really is, it becomes a matter of the utmost urgency. And since I am the only person she has to talk to, it is up to me to set things right. I do my best, and usually succeed, knowing full well that my success is temporary.

In recent weeks, for instance, my mother has become convinced that a certain financial document exists. She claims to have seen it with her own eyes, and that it has suddenly disappeared. Each time she tries to describe its appearance and what the document contains, her story changes: she found it in the bible her mother gave her when she graduated from high school; it was in an old photo album or in the bookcase; it was blue; it was pink; it was the size of a wedding invitation; her signature was on it, but the signature was forged.

When I tell her the document doesnít exist, and explain why it cannot possibly exist, she replies that she is not stupid and that she knows what she saw. To support her case, she imagines scenes which never took place, and which are devoid of sense or logic. She is hurt and offended that I do not believe her. Then, after a long, repetitive, heartbreaking discussion, something I say finally takes hold in her mind and she begins to realize she is the one in error. She apologizes profusely. We move on to other subjects. A short while later, the whole thing is forgotten ó until a few days pass and she discovers the document again.

The last time this happened was yesterday afternoon. From all I have observed, it seems quite likely that on one of these occasions, I will not be able to reestablish the truth in her mind ó a terrible thought, with tragic consequences.

July 9, 2006

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