Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hello Goodbye Hello

I am also an actress in addition to being a writer. This Holiday Season I have had the pleasure of appearing as Mrs. Cratchit in A Christmas Carol at The Goodman Theatre. 

On several occasions I’ve thought how much my mother would have loved to see me in it. Before I met my husband, my mother was my biggest fan. 

When I refer to the mother who would've loved to see the show, I mean the mother who raised me and was always there for me in my young adult life. The mother I knew up until 2008.

That mother saw me every night when I had the lead in my high school production of Mame. The box office people knew her by name and when they were sold out let her stand in the back and watch. 

Mom always said, "Tania, you have such presence on stage.” Whether performing on Broadway or a storefront theater mother was in attendance and always sang my praises. 

Sadly, I am describing my mother before Alzheimer's. 

In 2008 she started slipping away, calling me less and less, repeating herself more and more, forgetting birthdays and asking strange questions like, "What day is Thanksgiving, Tania?" From then on a different mother emerged. 

She was still loving but unable to be there for me because her memory was fading. For instance, she couldn't remember that I was pregnant with my second child and wasn't at the delivery like she was with my oldest. She saw no reason to visit my new baby girl since she scarcely remembered she existed.

She had no idea what was happening in the world. She never asked about my children or husband.  She didn't know where I lived. She had no idea I was a professional actress. 

But the essence of my mother; sweet, good, funny, kind and loving, remained. There was no pretense. 

Mom was a doctor who never left the house without looking her best. She always wore dresses, went to the hairdresser every week for a “wash and set” and was private to a fault. 

In the nursing home she wore pants, let the caregivers braid her hair in cornrows and shared a room with two other patients. 

I suspect that she’d be mortified by the woman she had become. I had to make peace with that. It was difficult especially because I didn’t love her any less when she lived in the nursing home. She was her purest self.

It stings that she isn’t here to see me play Mrs. Cratchit and it pains me that even if she were here she couldn’t have attended because she wouldn’t have been comfortable leaving the nursing home, getting in a car or sitting in a dark theatre surrounded by people. I don't think she would have even understood it was me on the stage. 

Alzheimer’s splits a person in two; their life divides into who they were before and who they are afterwards.   

I grieve my Mom twice, mourning two spirits but feel lucky for having known both.

Me and my mother at the nursing home wearing the same dress.