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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dear Mom: It's Best You Don't Know


Dear Mom:

This is one of these "letters in my head" that I've actually decided to put in writing this time, and do so publicly. You have no idea how many times a week I write one of these missives to you, knowing that while you can't read them, somehow across the miles you do get the message from me, your son.

Right now the world is a crazy place, and I hate to say it, but I'm actually blessed that you are in bed, adrift in your Alzheimer's Disease and what it does to your mind and body, not knowing what goes on in the outside world.

I remember back in 2001, as your diagnosed dementia progressed into early onset Alzheimer's (you had just turned 60), and the tragedy of 9-11 occurred.  To you it was unreal, like a movie, as it was to many of us. You imagined certain aspects of the events that didn't actually happen because that was the way your brain was wired. Again, I think you're the lucky one in that you never knew everything that went on that day or how it would affect all of us, as a nation and individually.

All this weekend I've tried to imagine your reaction to the school shooting in Connecticut and the murder of 20 young children, all first graders.  I know you'd be devastated, simply based on what I know about you and the way you were around children of all ages.

I was always amazed at how you would gravitate to almost any child and make a connection.  You held newborns almost as if you ached to do so. We'd be out in public, in a shopping mall or a store, and I'd turn around . . . and you'd have someone's baby in your arms. You were a mother to so many, in your own immediate family and to the extended family of Austins, MacEntees and more.

You counseled and cared for so many of my cousins, and even children of close family friends, knowing that a trip to New York City or that special birthday treat was a glimmering highlight in their life. You knew who had been abused, who had been neglected. It was almost a secret language you spoke with them. You connected instantly. And you let them know, based on your own experiences with abuse, that it does get better.  That there are kind souls out there. That good trumps evil each and every time, even if we don't see it in the short run.

As your disease progressed, this connection became a problem: you'd want to hold small babies and try to grab them from strangers. Or we'd be at a restaurant and you'd focus on smiling and waving to a small child across the room and ignore your food or the conversation.

So what would you think of these 20 young lives eliminated by a madman? You'd cry, you'd talk to others about it, and you'd hold your own children a little closer and little tighter if you could.  Something I think every parent in America has been doing this same thing all weekend.

But you'd also wonder about the mother of the madman who was also killed.  You'd ask how this happened, and you'd have empathy for her and her family. That empathy is the greatest gift you've ever given me: the ability to picture myself in someone's else's shoes and ponder their plight before I jumped to conclusions.

My biggest fear over the next few days is that we as a nation jump to short-sighted, knee-jerk solutions to what is a serious problem: mental illness, access to guns, violence and the way media glorifies it at the expense of making a profit.

While it's better you not know these things, being the smart, capable and strong woman that you were, you'd find a way to make sense of it all. And you'd tell everyone not just how you felt, but what needed to be done. That's what I miss most right now.

© 2012, copyright Thomas MacEntee

9 comments:

Stephanie @ CornAndCotton.com said...

What a beautiful letter. You are not only a good son but a kind soul.

Pat Richley-Erickson said...

((((hugs)))

Miriam said...

Thank you, Thomas. Well said.

www.HungarianFamilyRecord.org said...

This is a beautiful.This article should go beyond the scope of genealogy readers.It's natural that when a disaster or some catastrophic event happens in our world, we always turn our head to ask our Moms " how did this happen "? She sounds like a wonderful person and lucky to have a son like you .

www.HungarianFamilyRecord.org said...

This is a beautiful.This article should go beyond the scope of genealogy readers.It's natural that when a disaster or some catastrophic event happens in our world, we always turn our head to ask our Moms " how did this happen "? She sounds like a wonderful person and lucky to have a son like you .

imagespast said...

A very moving letter, Thomas

Elyse said...

Beautiful letter.

When I was born, my grandpa's Alzheimers was pretty severe. My mom took me to see him in the nursing home all the time and he would hold me and call me by my mom's name.

When we would leave, she would leave him with a Playboy magazine. When I was older and asked her why she gave him *that*, she would smile and say, "What else do you give a man who can't remember his wife or children? It's one of the few things left in this world that puts a smile on his face."

Anyway, you truly are a wonderful son and you are both so lucky to have each other.

Andrea Kelleher said...

Hugs. And yes you are a very good son. Beautiful letter.

www.HungarianFamilyRecord.org said...

Hi Thomas ,

I listed your Austin Family blog as one of my favorites in my nominations for the "Wonderful Team Member Readership Award", which you can get more information on by going to:

http://www.genealogyworks2.blogspot.com/.

Take care . Hope your Mom is well during this winter season.

Magda