“At least my memory’s back,” she said. She glanced down at her hands on the white sheets. “So, what happened?” she said, looking up. “Where am I?”
“Your turn,” my stepfather said to me.
“This is the hospital, Mom. I guess you lost your memory.”
“Really? I was walking around and — poof! — my memory was gone?”
“It started with a headache —— ”
“My head does hurt.” She touched her temple. “I’m just glad my memory’s back.” She looked around the room, at the metal bed, the beeping machines. “So what happened?” she said. “Where am I?”
I felt a terrible wave crashing on us. For several hours we took turns answering her loop of questions. When we told my mother that we were home for Christmas, she said, “But I didn’t buy any presents! I never made cookies.”
“You did,” we told her. “Don’t worry about that.”
We had that conversation maybe 30 times.
CT scan. Spinal tap. She peed in a cup and then forgot she had peed in a cup and eyed the container suspiciously. Her headache went away. She perked up, made a joke, laughed, then a minute later made the same joke. And again. And again.
She remembered everything about the distant past. My childhood, her childhood. Those old memories weren’t in danger. But she had no short-term memory. I felt the ache of this new reality. I was planning to have babies soon, and she wouldn’t remember meeting them, no matter how many visits we made. I wanted to sell a book, but even if I achieved that dream, she would never know me as a writer. I would be 33 forever, and she 62. We were frozen in time.