To the casual observer, my three-year-old grandson Robert is in the kitchen beside the refrigerator. But I know better. Though he is standing in full view, he is hiding. His hands are covering his eyes and a little giggle is sneaking out of his mouth. As I walk into the room, I call, “Where is Robert? I can’t find him anywhere.” The giggle explodes into laughter and Robert triumphantly lifts his hands and announces, “I’m here. It’s me!” We have a joyous hug and then he wiggles away, walks to the other side of the refrigerator, places his hands over his eyes and is once again “hidden.” Once more I call out, “Where is Robert? I miss him. I hope I can find him soon.”
As I continue this marvelous game of hide and seek with Robert, I think of my mother and her last years. So many times I’d walk into her room in the memory care unit, see her slumped in her chair, eyes closed, and I’d wonder, “Where is my mother? I miss her.” I would sit down, take her hand, and call out, “Mom? Hi Mom, it’s me, your daughter.”
Aficionados of hide-and-go-seek know the game is more thrilling when you’re not immediately found. When my brother and I were young, my mother let the tension build as we squirmed in our cramped hiding places, squashed into the bottom of the coat closet or curled underneath the dining room table. Back in those days, my mother was in no hurry to find us and now she is in no hurry to be found.
“Mom?” I say, hoping she will rouse at the sound of my voice. Finally, her eyes open and she smiles at me. Her grin is implish and slight, but it is enough.
“Hi Mom,” I say and for a few minutes, we hold hands and look at each other. Then she closes her eyes and once again, she is hiding in full view, waiting to be found.
Deborah Shouse, author, Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey