As Mother’s Day approaches, I want to share a snippet that I wrote a decade ago about my mother. She had surgery for a benign, but large, brain tumor when she was in her mid-70s. She had been a writer, and there’s nothing like a writer with brain damage. She was prone to confabulation, in which memory and imagination intertwined.
That longhorn bull and I – we are the only creatures crazy enough to brave the noonday heat. He grazes the fields of grass burned gold by the drought. I am in Little Red, the compact car that my father should no longer be allowed to drive. My mother is by my side. I belted her in myself, so the metal buckle wouldn’t brand her. I can barely hold the wheel. What was my father thinking when he got a black interior?
She is telling me the story about how her philosophy professor encouraged her to break up with her first fiance more than 50 years ago. Light shines in her eyes, her large eyes, whose green stays true no matter the weather, no matter what she wears. I wonder what he saw in those eyes. He was only a few years older than her. Did he want to teach her about more than philosophy? All I know was he could not bear to see her trapped too early.
She is telling the story, but she is telling it wrong. In her damaged brain, the story has become better. The conversations, the actions, have become more dramatic. I drive with eyes straight ahead, concentrating on the golden fields, resisting the urge to yell out: “That’s not true. This is all wrong.” I want to sob: “I always trusted you. I depended on you. Now I don’t know what is true anymore.”
Are these variations any less true than her old stories? Do any of us remember our lives exactly or are our memories just as much a part of our lives as the events as they occurred?