I went to visit my mom on Halloween.  I brought her a little container of candy corn that someone had recently given me. I never loved candy corn, but she did.  When I gave it to her I reminded her that she used to love it.  She looked bewildered, but then again, she’d looked bewildered when I found her wondering the halls…bewildered about who I might be.  Yet she quickly picked up a piece of the candy and ate it in the manner she taught us to eat candy corn…bite off the white tip…then the orange middle…then eat the yellow end…like a religious ritual.

We sat on her bed and she told story after story….all starting off with gusto then meandering into some incoherent mess of words.  I am usually quite buffered from feeling when I go to visit so that I don’t experience the terror and pain of her slippage from Mom to mental Zombie, but on this day I felt.  Maybe it was the candy corn, or maybe it was the vulnerability of a holiday she had done so well by us year after year.

I felt tears considering a downpour, so instead I started talking…fast.

“You know Mom, you are a good story teller,” I said.

A few layers of fog lifted from her eyes.  “I am…I really am.”

“You’ve always been a good story teller,” I say.

“I have,” she said proudly.

“You taught me to be a good story teller,” I say.  I mean it.

Another few layers lift.  “You are a good story teller,” she says like she meant it too.

I flash on a memory from early childhood when she used to encourage me to put on my Mickey Mouse ears and sing this song she’d taught us for any and all visitors.  I was good at this song.  I was a good and cheap entertainment for our guests.

I remind her of this.  Her eyes look perfectly clear and her voice is a voice I seldom hear from her any longer.  It is normal.  It is sure of itself.  “I remember those ears…you put them on to watch the Mickey Mouse Club.  What was the song?”

She remembered The Mickey Mouse Club.  I start to sing the song in the terrible cockney accent she’d made me ape so long ago…

“A mother was washing her baby one night…”

She smiles and chimes in with me…

 “Poor little infant

So slim and so slight.

The mother turned ‘round for the soap on the rack.

Twas only a moment but when she turned back.”

 Our volume increases.  She is singing and laughing a little

 “Oh where, oh where is my baby she cried,

Oh where, oh where?  And the angels replied….”

I have a moment of the same anticipated glee I’d  have as a kid, and so does she, because the chorus is so terrible it is funny.  And then we start singing that chorus…and we are loud enough for the entire Alzheimered wing to hear.

 “Your baby has gone down the drain pipe.

Your baby has gone down the plug.

Poor little mite, so slim and so slight,

She should have been washed in a jug.”

 Mom is laughing and singing her guts out.

 “Your baby is perfectly ‘appy.

For she won’t have to bathe anymore.

Your baby has gone down the drain pipe,

Not lost…but gone ever more.”

 She then starts talking about my dad, someone she hasn’t mentioned for almost a year.  She uses his name and seems to recall I am her daughter.  We laugh and she tells a few lucid stories.  We both eat a few pieces of candy corn…in the proper manner.  I leave before she slips back into the scratched record mode.

 I call Eddie that evening.  I tell him the story.

 “It is good you go visit her,” he says.  “I remember that song.”  He sings some of it.  He was never as good as I was at the accent.  Still isn’t.  He then says, “I always hated candy corn.”

 “Me too,” I say.

 He laughs, “But we always ate it…like that…like she did.”

 Before I left my mom that day I told her she was a good mom.  I told her she always made Halloween special.  I told her about the outfits she’d make us, the special Halloween dinners.  I reminded her of the fun neighbors who gave popcorn balls and dressed up.  She nodded and acted like she remembered it all, and though I doubt she did, she did like hearing me tell the stories.