One of the most difficult periods in my life was during the years my mother suffered from dementia. During that time, I had to balance caring for her, acting as her guardian, in a sense as her mother, while honoring her with the respect and giving her the dignity she was due as my mother. The verse that sustained me during this time was Joshua 1:9—“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you.”(NIV) The poem below is a piece I wrote at the time to help me deal with the practicalities of living those two roles—mother and daughter.
by Joan Leotta
“My daughter comes and goes,” Mom says.
“I am your daughter,” I announce.
I stand by her straight green chair
and take her hand in mine.
Her head turns toward me
but her eyes stare without focus.
Bending toward her, I ask.
“Would you like a drink of water?’
“My daughter comes and goes,” she answers.
From her pink plastic pitcher,
I pour the water into a cup.
I pour until I am empty.
I place the cup in her hand,
closing her fingers around it, one by one.
She raises the water to open lips,
but tilts the cup too soon.
She wants to drink,
but cannot find her mouth.
I mop the spill and get more water.
I raise the fresh cup to her lips.
She smiles, sips, and slips her hand over mine.
“My daughter comes and goes,” she says.
“My mother too, ” I answer,
hug her hard and kiss her.
A poem from my chapbook Languid Lusciousness with Lemon
Available from Finishing Line Press on Amazon.com
Joan Leotta has been playing with words since childhood. She is a poet, essayist, journalist, playwright, and author of several books both fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. She is also a performer and gives one-woman shows on historic figures and spoken word folklore shows as well as teaching writing and storytelling.
Joan lives in Calabash, NC where she walks the beach with husband, Joe. www.joanleotta.wordpress.com and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joan-Leotta-Author-and-Story-Performer/188479350973