Isn’t she adorable? My mom…Cora Elzabeth Zane Walker Smith, “Betty.” After my dad died in 2003, our family realized that Betty was suffering from advancing dementia. Soon she came to live with me. And within a year my cute little mom was a participant at Tuolumne County’s Adult Day Health Care Center, a place that nurtures and cares for those with Alzheimer’s, senile dementia, traumatic brain injuries and much more. And she was the life of their party! Always singing, dancing and reciting poetry, that was Betty. In those days I would go in from time to time to tell stories, and my mom would beam with pride. Her daughter, The Storyteller!
When this angel passed in July 2010, we all knew she’d flown back into her right mind. No more forgetting, no more addling, just back into clarity.
So when their activities director called and asked me to tell Valentine’s stories, I flew there with wings on my heels. With my ukulele close by, I told “The Lute Player,” a tale of redeeming love. We sang Woody Guthrie’s “I’m Gonna Wrap Myself in Paper.” And I told a brief personal story of how my parents met during WWII. We ended with an old family favorite song, “With Someone Like You.” Could I trigger even a fleeting memory, a recollection from their own lives?
How do you tell stories to this audience? With no ego. With compassion. With patience. With the simple hope that someone will laugh and smile, and that you will hold them in the moment.
That’s all there is…this moment.