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Tom and I have been getting our affairs in order. We’ve received no bad news or anything like that. We anticipate and look forward to a very healthy and happy 2014. But we have “basement issues” with unsorted boxes and papers from our foray of frequent moves and we’ve bravely decided to tackle just a bit of it.

Some of that includes straightening out the fireproof box and making sure records are current and pertinent.  I was mom’s durable power of attorney and we’ve just passed the 6th anniversary of her death in November 2007 so I walked down memory lane a bit before continuing on my task.

Mom was at Hazel Findlay Nursing Home in St. Johns, Michigan when she passed, a long-term resident with Alzheimzers disease. Even without her speech, mom could, nearly up to the end, brighten a worker’s or visitor’s day with her cheerful smile and laugh.

Before entering residential care, mom was living in an apartment near her sister in Indiana. When she visited us, she loved to dote on our cat, Bradley. She kept up a pretty bright conversation with him, and saw him only through compassionate eyes of love. They were pals.

Mom’s been on my mind lately anyway, not just because of the paperwork but because it is Thanksgiving season turning quickly into pre-Christmas season. These were festive times for mom and baking was her speciality. I, in fact, was boasting about her famous pumpkin pie (like none other) that was a cherished heirloom in our family at our October high school reunion luncheon and found myself promising to bring the proof to our November luncheon.

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Six pies later, I had pretty wide acceptance that her pumpkin pie was pretty darn good. Mom took out all the stops during this season with her baking. Many traditional Norwegian specialties plus the always-loved sugar cookies cutouts, the confectioners sugar pecan balls, and many others that were stored all over the house and somehow kept fresh right up to the holiday. Mom gave much of it away, but my two brothers and I were lurking when ever we could to capture an extra one or two when nobody was looking.

They may not have been looking, but once in awhile we heard from far in another room, “You kids, get out of the kitchen!” How did they know?

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Tom was reading the newspaper one night and said to me, “Oh, guess what is the secret ingredient to the best pumpkin pie.” I bit (no pun intended) and answered, “Ginger.” “Wrong,” he said. “Love.”

By the time Thanksgiving had come and gone, I had added four more pies to my production for family. And I have to agree. I know mom’s baking came from love. And my own? Surely, love is the added ingredient that was enjoyed by all.

About three years before mom died, I wrote a poem at an IWWG Writers Conference I was attending in New York. As I did in every visit to mom, I also tried, in the poem, to get behind that mask of Alzheimers and touch my mom by calling out her identity. This is the poem.

Her Name is Marion
by Susan Heffron Hajec

She is somebody
her name is Marion.
She is somebody
she is my mother.
She is somebody
she is ill with Alzheimer’s.

She is somebody
she is the delete key that’s been
mistakenly pressed on the computer of life.
She is the jigsaw puzzle
with the missing pieces.
She is the finished recipe
minus a key ingredient.
She is the sunset
blocked from view.
She is the wrapped birthday present
without the signed card.
My mother is somebody
Alzheimer’s is the lurking bandit.

My mother is somebody.
She is the gentle sensation of peach fuzz
on my cheek.
My mother is somebody
She is the beckoned smile from a baby.
My mother is somebody.
She is the organizer in a house of chaos.

She is somebody
her name is Marion.
She is somebody
she is my mother.

                    Skidmore 2004

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