I met an old lady with a gracious disposition and a lovely smile
Who, sadly, lives inside her head
Because she has no memory of anything
Other than being born in Ireland and milking cows.
In a definite Irish brogue,
Even though she has been in the US for over 60 years,
She sings me an Irish lullaby; when I ask her to sing it for me a week later, Mary has no idea what I’m talking about
I wonder how she could not remember her children,
Only that she lives with one, who, she says,
“I haven’t seen my daughter in days,” (she works)
And I don’t know where she is, I’m home alone all the time.”
She has a dog who she calls by the name of her childhood pet, Amber.
She describes her young years in Ireland as being carefree
While running through green hills, playing in the barn
And milking cows and milking cows, because that was her job.
She tells me about her brothers, one older and one younger
But can’t recall their names or if they still live in Ireland or are dead.
She describes her mother as a wonderful cook and her father as stern,
And says, “Oh, I had a beautiful childhood, Ireland is so green, so nice.”
I cook for her, I take her to get a haircut, to a doctor’s appointment,
To the park one day; we walk through a colorful and fragrant rose garden.
In the moment, she thanks me for the delicious food, for the ride in the car.
For asking and listening to her stories about Ireland. “No one else does.”
She remembers none of these outings.
I ask who the picture of the little girl is on the mantle,
“Oh, I don’t know.” “Maybe a granddaughter?” I ask.
“I don’t know. Do I have a granddaughter? I’m so forgetful. I’m so old.”
“Tell me about when you were a young mother, your husband,”
Just wanting to get her to interact and talk.
“Oh, I milked cows in Ireland, I love my cow, such a big cow,
So much milk. My father was happy I milked the cow.”
Twice a week when I arrive at her house
She is standing on the porch waving at me.
“I was hoping you’d come today. It’s lonely being here alone every day.”
I’m thrilled she is waiting for me; she doesn’t know my name.
And for the umpteenth time I say, “So you were born in Ireland?”
“Oh yes, I was born in Ireland. I milked cows, so many big cows.
And Amber was right there by my side,”
As she pets the dog next to her whose name is Brutus.
My heart aches for Mary.
A life lived and then forgotten.
Feeling she is alone every single day, except for my visits.
It amazes me that she remember I am coming to see her.
And then I get a text from her daughter,
“My siblings” (who live out-of-state) “don’t think it’s important
To spend money for your help.
It doesn’t seem to make a difference for mother.”
I burst into tears, I feel angry at their decision.
I’d do it for free but they see no need for her having companionship.
“She doesn’t remember,” texts back the daughter.
“But I don’t want her to feel I’ve abandon her,” I text.
“Thank you. But don’t worry, she won’t remember you.”
As a Baby Boomer Bubbe who still feels 18 but has four grand kids to prove this is the 21 Century, Sandra writes to leave a legacy for the next generations. Her belief that these precious kids need to know their cultural and family’s past in order for them to live their future is all the muse she needs!
She has a Master’s Degree in Psychology and Cross Cultural studies, has written a family history, personal memoir and is completing her first novel.
Her grandmother’s journey to America and life is her source for her deep belief and love for Judaism.