We have found a tiny crack in the wall separating us from paradise, and we peer, with eager, shining eyes like children, always seeking. (Robin Moore)
Last evening I visited Ruby. She was recovering from the flu. After two days of vomiting and diarrhea when she could barely raise her head from the pillow, she was now sitting upright in bed and intent on sharing an amazing experience. Without waiting for me to pull my chair up to her bedside, she launched into her story.
She said: I was lying here looking at a picture on the wall. It was a picture of a woman. She looked at me and smiled. I saw her lips move, but she did not say a word. Then the wall where the picture of the woman was hanging started to move. The whole side of my room opened up and I could look up. I don’t know how high I could see, maybe seventy feet, maybe higher.
I asked: what could you see up there?
She said: It was gray up there. Maybe I could see all the way up to the sky. I never knew that was behind the wall.
As she spoke, I could see that she was looking at the corner of her room where the ceiling and the wall met.
She said: they really did a good job of putting the room back together. You can hardly see where it opened up. I sure didn’t know that was behind the wall. It is really big out there!
During this time I had several mental responses to our conversation. At first I thought of saying: oh mother, you’re just hallucinating from being sick. I did not. I could see she truly believed in the reality of what she had experienced. I thought: she is more animated and full of life than I have seen her in a long time. Then I reminded myself: you have spent your life creating imagined worlds and sharing them with audiences. Ruby looks like a person who has just experienced a good story.
By this time the moment had passed. The animation in Ruby’s face was gone. We returned to the everyday. We talked about how she was feeling, the story of my day and the health problems of my sister. We did not return to the wonder of what might be on the other side of that wall.
The above story opens a journal where I recorded the relationship between myself and my mother for a period of more than a year (2009-2010). This journal tells the story of Ruby’s descent in dementia. Today, Ruby cannot complete a thought.