When Your Mom Doesn’t Remember…

My mom is known for telling the same stories over and over. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard how my grandma threw my aunt in the air and broke her leg, how my brother took a walker down the stairs, or how my three-year-old brother brother got my newborn sister out of the crib and carried her down the stairs. (These are, of course, all cautionary tales brought out when she saw anything remotely resembling them.)

These stories are so ingrained in us that I doubt any of us could forget these events, especially since we heard these stories every time we saw her.

Then the stories changed. A different brother carried my sister down the stairs. A different brother took the walker down the stairs. My mom is eighty and these events happened fifty years ago. Still it was disconcerting that she got them confused.

I wrote a story for a charity cookbook about how Mom taught me to count while she kneaded bread. She’d split the dough into sections and we’d count them as she placed them in the bread pans. We did this almost every Saturday.

I gave her a copy of the book and told her about the story. As she flipped through, she came across my childhood picture and commented that it looked like me. I assured her it was and that I had written the story below. Maybe the story being under my pen name confused her, but I expected her to laugh about making the bread and calling the loaves ‘piggies.’  She read the story, looked at the accompanying recipe and said, “I don’t remember doing any of that.”



As if she didn’t remember the recipe she made from scratch. As if she didn’t remember baking half-a-dozen loaves (or more) every Saturday. As if she didn’t remember me standing on the chair next to her, pointing to the loaves of dough as she placed them in the pans. “One. Two. Three.”

I’ve never heard her say my kids’ names. She writes them, but she never says them. It’s always Joselyn’s little girl or Joselyn’s boy. I figured this was because they were the youngest of twenty, but now she’s using this trick for the older grandkids’ names too.

And I wonder how long before she forgets mine.


  1. I can only imagine how difficult this is for you. We went through this with my father-in-law and it was heartbreaking. But through your written stories, you have a living memory of the good times with her.


  2. How sad for you. My mother has started down this road too. For years, she told me my eldest brother chose my name when I was born because after nine kids she just couldn’t come up with one. Suddenly a few years ago, she said he chose the name of my brother instead. I was devastated. It’s a hard road to walk.


  3. It’s tough but you have to remember, she was doing work, and you were having fun. I wonder what your kids will remember of the things you do to distract them so you can get some work done. Will you remember? We were looking at photos today and some of the pictures the kids remember are so different from what I remember.

    W.S. Gager on Writing


  4. How hard and painful for you and your family, my heart goes out to you. There are so many going through a version of this story and so many that will go through it. It’s hard.


  5. Watching your mother age is difficult. I remember noticing little things about my mom. Yes, the stories change in the telling, but the delight and the love will never be lost because there is a special place in your heart for your mom.


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