Tulsa, OK

The Day My Mama Forgot She Didn’t Have Any Clothes On!

Debbie Walker

I almost fell outta my chair when she walked by.

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Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

A few months before my mother went into the nursing home, she came to live with me. The prospect of forging a new relationship with her after 40 years of estrangement was promising. My dad was in the hospital battling cancer, so Mama stayed with me for a while.

During that time, I observed some of her idiosyncrasies. Unusual behaviors and speech that seemed odd to me. Forewarned that she was getting forgetful, I never dreamed she would forget she was clothing-less.

But first I want to talk about what brought us to this place in our relationship. Forty years earlier, at age seventeen, I became pregnant by an African-American boy and was given the choice to leave home or get an abortion. I chose to leave.

Come Back Home

In the following years, my mother and I had sporadic contact, but by 2008, we had drifted apart. We had not spoken for a decade by that point. Then one day I received a phone call asking me to come back because she was sick.

I moved home to Tulsa, Oklahoma not long after our conversation.

We had a second chance and started working out our differences. When I saw her after so many years, we fell into each other’s arms and started crying. I asked her for forgiveness and she asked mine. Those requests were the building blocks for a new relationship.

However, our new bond came with comedy.

Settling In

I’ll never forget the look on her face when Mama stood in my living room. She reminded me of a little girl, lost and scared, coat in one hand and pulling her luggage in the other. I believe it was the beginning of spring.

We bought a new mattress and box spring on a metal frame to put in the “office-now-turned-into-a-bedroom” which she thoroughly enjoyed. Especially watching the birds and squirrels from her bed. That is what she kept telling me, over and over and over. Hmm.

Mama also asked me many times if we had rats. I assured her we did not. However, she was not so sure and told me so.

I finally figured out she was hearing those same squirrels running and jumping from the tree to the gutters right outside her window. We had a friendly laugh at the rat/squirrel incident.

Helping

“I just want to help, pull my own weight,” said Mama.

“No, no, Mama, please, you don’t have to do anything. Enjoy, yourself,” I told her.

But she would not listen. I often found her in the kitchen attempting to cook dinner. In the most gentle and reassuring voice I could muster, I let Mama know I could handle the meal preparation.

“I’m not a kid! I am YOUR mother.”

She put me in my place real quick. I let her do her thing after that, and she made a few interesting dishes — like fried chicken with a side of oatmeal.

Then there was the time when Mama washed clothes. When I asked what she was doing, she told me she was putting the clothes in the dryer.

I came to help and saw her holding my husband’s brand new jogging outfit turned pink with a look of horror on her face. I told her it’s not the end of the world. My husband couldn't do anything but shake his head.

A little while later, I heard bumping noises coming from Mama’s room. Upon peeking my head in, she was pulling out her suitcase to pack and leave before my husband got home from work.

Needless to say, she didn’t go anywhere.

Without the Essentials

Toward the end of Mama’s stay with me was the one event that will forever remain in the infamy of our family history. The time she walked across the living room. I’ll set it up.

My husband had some friends over on a Saturday to watch college football. They spent the afternoon eating, drinking, and hollering at the TV. Anyone that walked across their line of sight was immediately ushered out of the way.

I’m in the kitchen when I hear, “Debbie, come get your Mama!” I turned around to see my mother hobbling slowly with her cane in nothing but a pale-blue matching set of bra and panties, in front of the TV.

My husband and his two friends were in suspended animation as I burst out laughing at the expression on their faces. I jumped up and led her back to the bedroom.

I think the occurrence ruined the Saturday afternoon football get-together because my husband’s friends left shortly thereafter. They did not return for quite a spell.

Thankfully, Mama did not realize what happened.

I don’t rightly know what brought these events to my mind. Perhaps it’s springtime, and I’m sitting here in my bedroom/office looking out of the same window, hearing/watching the rat/squirrels scamper from the roof to the trees.

And I miss my Mama.

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