A Tea Party For Nana


Remembering my Mother.

Here’s Mom as a little girl. I always loved this shot of her.

In celebration of Mom, on what would have been her 75th birthday…

Talking about the memories I have for someone who lost all theirs seems the very definition of irony. Yet I miss Mom and now my memories of her are all I have, and they’re more precious than ever.


Mom's last big hurrah.

Before Mom stopped recognizing us altogether, there were lots of steps along the way. Here she is at one of the last family gatherings she attended.

Over the past couple of years it feels like I lost my mom on a continual basis. I would visit her and spend time with her, but she wasn’t the person we all used to know and enjoy so much. And then as time moved forward it seemed as if a new person started to take over her personality. We’d have to remind “New Mom” to take big steps, help her in and out of the car, clothe her, and grind her food up into an easy to swallow paste. Finally we had to be satisfied to simply sit in the presence of her strangely vacant and confused stare, but even that didn’t last. Time, it seems, stops for no one.


Mom was a hoot.

Mom was always a bit of whimsy personified.

These last few years have left me with so many mixed emotions. I had great sadness Mom was disappearing. There was anger she was leaving me and I couldn’t prevent it. There were certain regrets: Wondering when we had our last real conversation. Wondering the last time she was with truly with us at the dinner table? Wondering the last time she last knew we were a part of her family.


North to Alaska in 1958

I can still remember this trip. It was ages ago, but it doesn’t really feel that way. We were headed to Alaska for Dad’s new job. Mom is pictured on the left. That’s me in the middle and Dad on the right.


I’ve had what seems an eternity to dwell on Mom’s condition, and yet it feels like just the other day I was wheeling her down a path that goes around the outside of the memory care facility she stayed at, pointing out the flowers. How does it happen that one minute a person is here and the next they’re gone? Where do people go when they suffer as she did? Do they sense what’s going on or is it all a big mystery? Are they in a happy new world? Do they care? Why is it that no matter how much we want her to get better or at least get no worse, the clock ticks on without mercy?


Never dull. Mom's garden was something to behold.

Mom’s garden was always filled with blooms. These fox glove are in their glory.


I miss Mom's flowers.

This was classic Mom. I could always drop by for a visit and find her wearing a hat, those little rubber slip on shoes and some gloves. We’d spend hours walking around her garden.

I try to remember Mom. I picture her in the garden. I recall the yellow rubber shoes she’d slip on to show off her flowers in bloom. I can see her playing Mario Kart in the den and watching her trying to get to the next level. I remember sitting down to dinners with her and Dad and the table set just so. Mom was a whiz at that. She was whimsy personified. She could take a bright Mexican peacock scarf and create a stunning tablecloth out of it that would complement the dishes perfectly. Somehow, maybe through magic, she could always turn the mundane or tacky into something beautiful. I always envied her ability.


Mom's flower girl pose.

Mom knew how to make us laugh. How I miss that.

Mom was really just a big kid at heart. She had a way of expressing herself—it was part glee, part kidder, a lot of punster, and as a result we all would get caught up in the lighter, happier side of living.


Mom lived in a world populated by creatures far more interesting than most of us can see or appreciate. I say this because she’d always come up with a way to surprise us. I’d turn around and there before me was some critter I hadn’t seen before peeking out from the flowers—like her ceramic bunnies. She kept two of them in the garden. Now, most people would probably think tacky if they saw them in the store, yet Mom gave her bunnies personalities and dressed them for the occasion. For example, it wasn’t unusual to find “Big Bun” with a flag in his paws on the 4th of July or a Santa hat for Christmas. With Mom’s touch, I never quite knew what to expect, but it was always whimsical and fun.


Miss Gray Poop On

Here’s little Miss Mustard. She’s taken up a spot in my garden now. The birds still love her just as much as I do.

There are such great memories.

My daughter called Mom “Nana”. It stuck. She sure didn’t want to be called Grandma.

Mom also named the extra critters she’d have around, and like a good spy novel she’d give them a background story—usually one based on a pun. For instance, the little girl statue in the garden (pictured right) was named Miss Mustard. When asked why, Mom explained it was because of her distinctive color and what happens with so many birds around—she was gray poop-on, of course.


My little one is all grown up now. Nana would be proud.

Here’s a 4 generation shot of Mom, Grandmom, my daughter Sarah and me taken in the eighties. That’s Mom on the right.


Mom was game for many things and even tried her hand at the internet. As Dad is a techy guy he was more than happy to set her up with any kind of toy she might desire. I remember when Mom got her computer she had to come up with an email address and seemed to find the perfect one. Linda was Mom’s first name and Austin the last so she came up with laustincyberspace@…. You should read that as “lost in cyberspace”.


I'm glad I've got such a good collection of photos of Mom.

Mom’s love for dishes and tea parties started early. Here she is as a toddler and already pouring tea.

I can’t leave off without dishing on mom’s dishes. Mom loved dishes. Boy did she ever love dishes. As we were going through the house last year we found set after set tucked away in the cabinets and closets. I’m sure if she had to she could have put together a table for a couple hundred people. The cool thing is she used most all of them at some point or the other. She’d get inspired by something she saw in a magazine, plan a meal, decide on a theme and come up with the perfect table setting. Maybe now you know why I miss family dinners with Mom.


Mom passed away a few weeks ago and we wanted to plan a memorial service to remember her life. As we tried to come up with an appropriate way to celebrate her, my daughter came up with the perfect solution—a tea party! Mom loved tea parties. I know she had many of them over the years, but her favorites always were the ones with her granddaughter who called her Nana. They started with imaginary tea parties and graduated to great grandma’s fine china tea cups. Knowing my mom, each and every one of those tea parties was a highlight in her life.


We had lots of flowers for Mom. She would have loved them.

Our “Tea Party” for Mom was a huge success. I wanted to do it up like Mom would have. I think she would have been proud.

With the help of family and friends we were able to serve up one very fine afternoon tea that I know Mom would have thoroughly enjoyed. There were tiny tea sandwiches, little lemon tarts, cookies, and scones to fill the table. There were pigs in a blanket, roast beast, quiche and surrounding everything flowers galore. We drank pink lemonade and savored a fine Earl Grey. There were tears and nods as we reminisced about Mom, but also laughter and smiles as we remembered how she loved to pun and kid around.


I hope Mom is in a better place now. I can picture her picking out a pretty spot surrounded by bright flowers and chirping birds and as many dish patterns as she can imagine. And no doubt she’s found some like-minded friends to have over for a fine china tea party. Mostly, though, I hope she remembers things the way they were before Alzheimer’s, especially all the fun we had.


This is Mom and me less than a year ago.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

No matter what happened to her mind, I will always treasure the memories of the good times we shared together. Today is…was Mom’s birthday. It’s a bittersweet day for me—the first one I’ll spend without her. I love you, Mom, and miss you so much. Time with you was sweet, but far, far too short. Rest now, Mom. Go in peace.


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