I am sitting at the table staring through the window. As the dry birch leaves fall, I will myself to think back ten years. I am trying to remember a family meeting my dad, my sister and I had with my mom. She was in hospice at that point, and it was something to do with her care.
From my perspective, it is an important part of the story I am trying to capture for the book I am writing. It’s proving more difficult than I expected. Voluntarily reliving those awful – and beautiful – days is harder than I thought it would be. Is it because this time I know what’s coming and I don’t want to lose Mom all over again?
The meeting was an uncomfortable, awkward experience. Family communication wasn’t our strongest trait. We had come together to talk about something big, something important. And I can’t remember what it was.
In that moment in her dim room, I would have sworn I could never forget. My stomach was in knots – it had been for months. But this was different. The four of us were going to discuss…. what?
I texted my sister out of the blue to see if she remembered what we discussed that day. Certain that this question, coming unannounced, would knock her off kilter for a bit, I feel badly. I chose to spend a beautiful late summer day revisiting a dark November evening a decade ago. It doesn’t seem fair to force the heaviness onto her.
Try as I might, I struggle with the details. Were we discussing options after learning that the hospice was considering releasing Mom to long-term care? Or were we brainstorming ideas to improve Mom’s communication options? Due to her advanced ALS, her mobility was limited. We were worried that if she was alone in her room and in distress, she may not be able to push the button to call the nurse.
Despite the best efforts of my mentors to teach me that memoir is part fiction – none of us remember exactly what happened and when – I struggle with “not telling the truth”. Now I know that should read my truth.
I have come to truly understand that my sister and I lived the same events but our experiences are our own. Our memories of the same interaction are as different as are which moments stand out. We were raised by the same parents, but we are different people with unique experiences that influence how we remember those events.
As I travel down this writing path, this may be one of the biggest lessons I learn. My story is neither right nor wrong. It is mine and it’s the only one I can tell.