My mother still thinks she has a mobile home in Kokomo.
“Well,” she says, “I’ve enjoyed our visit but I’m ready to go home now.”
I convince her to stay with me “a while longer.” She agrees ... reluctantly.
Kokomo is what she always harks back to. She moved her trailer to Indianapolis later and lived there for many more years until she retired, eventually coming to Wabash with me and John but it seems as if the Indianapolis era has entirely disappeared from her memory.
So you have to wonder: was Kokomo her happiest time that she is so insistent on returning? (Dad was already dead by then. They were married for over 30 years but she rarely mentions him.)
She was in her prime middle age in Kokomo. She worked for the Department of Defense as a Quality Assurance Representative, a job with high pay and excellent benefits. She was totally independent with no one to complain or criticize (my father having been a dominant, and often negative, personality). Her two sisters-in-law (both also widows), lived in Kokomo, too, along with numerous nieces and nephews and grand-nieces and nephews, all of whom petted and pampered the aunts.
The three “old bags” as they laughingly called themselves went to garage sales and out to eat. They gathered in one another’s kitchens for coffee klatches. They read the same books. The family was communal then. There were lots of birthday parties and baby showers and New Year’s Eve celebrations, often at facilities large enough for bars and bands and dancing.
So, when you become like my mom, sliding into dementia, do you yearn to return to the most satisfying time of your life? And when was that for you?
For myself, it would be neither of my marriages. The first one was mostly about never having enough money (oh, those dreaded calls from creditors and trying to avoid the landlord because you didn’t have enough to pay the rent.) The second marriage was about worrying over a Vietnam veteran husband who was prone to mood swings ... and drowning the down times in alcohol. I can look back with love but no desire to relive our lives together.
As far as jobs, my favorite was working for the sheriff department. I loved my deputies and the fact that they were the most inclusive group of men I’ve ever known, always urging me to come along with them to autopsies or drug buys or warrant-serving parties. I loved the fact of the sheriff department and jail being a 24/7 operation so you never knew when you came in every morning what exciting thing might have happened during the night.
And actually, except for the sadness of watching Mom deteriorate, I love being retired when nothing as crass as work interferes with NASCAR or being able to write whenever inspiration strikes.
So, perhaps, you have to wait until you’re actually in that place to be able to distill your life down to the point of discovering the time you’d return to if you could.
Vicki Williams is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached through the newspaper at firstname.lastname@example.org.