A small scrap of paper, tucked away in a drawer, with child-like handwriting that read September 11, The Bad Day. This memory that my mother did not want to forget was neatly rubber-banded with a few torn photographs and greeting cards that had ? scrawled next to the sender’s name. She kept the cards because they were pretty but had no idea who sent them.
It was January of 2003. Two weeks earlier, my mother was found wandering, early on a frigid, snowy morning by the local police, dressed in her nightgown and slippers……with a New York Times tucked under her arm. Outside temperatures, at 2:30 a.m., hovered at 16 degrees which did not factor into her incessant banging on the door of a house located not far from her apartment. The homeowners, obviously terrified at the sight of this tiny, frail, elderly woman, armed with a newspaper, called the authorities and cowered behind their door as my mother kept knocking.
The phone ringing in the middle of anyone’s night is never a sign of good news waiting to be shared at the other end. As my husband answered the call, I heard silence and watched him shake his head as he looked in my direction; “yes, that’s my mother-in-law, uh-huh, I see; thank you for calling, we’re leaving now to come pick her up”.
Frantically, we both dressed for the fifty mile trip, rushed out the door and my husband attempted to fill me in on the details as we pulled out of our driveway. He was talking but it was impossible to focus on anything he was saying until he mentioned the address of the home my mother had been found at…131 Church Street. This house had been my mother’s childhood home and suddenly I knew….it was Alzheimer’s, nothing else could be responsible for her midnight stroll, attempted home invasion and so many other incidents that I had, too easily, passed off to the woman’s advancing years. What I couldn’t figure out is where she got the New York Times from, my mother never read anything outside of the local paper and that was just to check the obituaries each day. I cringed in my seat thinking that she must have lifted it from someone’s doorstep as she roamed the streets that morning. Whatever the situation, one thing could not be denied, Mom’s living alone was now out of the question. There was nowhere else for her to go other than to come and live in my home, that was it! Done deal!
All I could think about was that my life was over. Selfish, I know.
Standing in the midst of boxes, as I packed up her belongings, I kept glancing down at that scrap of paper, that one brief written touch with reality that my mother chose to record two years prior. I thought back to that horrific day when so many lives disappeared into huge, wailing clouds of smoke and dust. Life as we had come to know it, up to that fateful day, would never be the same. I knew that what I was facing, as I became a caregiver to my mother, was totally insignificant compared to the events of 9/11/01.
It was……a Bad Day.