I’ve been thinking about my 88-year-old mother often this week. She’s been at my sister’s house for over a month now, which is a good thing, but it makes us all sad and worried to see how really terrible her short-term memory has become. While at my sister’s, she complained of tooth pain, so Beth took her to the dentist, who discovered multiple problems. Three appointments later over the course of a week, and Mom has a new filling, a new crown, and one less tooth, which had to be extracted. She remembers the dentist and his very kind staff each time she arrives there, but she does not remember having the work done.

Yesterday, after Mom threw out some bad words and threw a tantrum and perhaps a kitchen item or two, Beth managed to get Mom to the extraction appointment—but by the end of the day, Mom thanked Beth for a nice day! Memory loss does have some up sides.

Mom’s ability (propensity?) to switch from very happy to very grouchy reminds me of the days in my childhood when my parents were expecting company for the evening. The cleaning of the house was stressful, with much yelling at us kids; yet, when the doorbell rang, Mom would, amazingly to me, be all smiles and cheer with the guests. I attributed this to her having been a drama major in college and a fine actress on stage.

Maybe this memory about grouchiness during cleaning has also been on my mind because I’ve been doing a lot of cleaning this week, partly in preparation for Memorial Day houseguests but also because it was just plain time to take care of the messes that have been piling up as we built and set up the new lake cottage. It was time for that pile of faucet and interior door catalogs to go! Tonight I plan to iron and/or put away six weeks of clean clothing that has been hanging in the laundry room waiting to be taken care of. Yesterday I vacuumed and dusted in places that haven’t seen a cleaning implement since the start of football season last fall.

This type of deep cleaning doesn’t make me cry, however. I rather enjoy doing it, when I have the time. I put on music and get Zen with it. Late yesterday, Seals and Crofts’ Hummingbird came on. The B melody of that song is so beautiful that it brings tears to my eyes every time, and lately I have enjoyed my tendency to cry at everything sad or beautiful (like the end of Shrek, as my daughter likes to tease me), because I am able to cry. At my last eye doctor appointment, the doctor pronounced my dry-eye problem severe and sold me a Bruder Moist Heat Eye Compress, which I have been using. After a couple months, to my delight I now cry copiously from both eyes, whereas for many years only my right eye would tear up, and that just sparingly. Hooray! I’m crying!

I will end this essay with the story about crying that I have been wanting to tell. Last Saturday, two of my granddaughters went with me and Bob to a neighborhood dinner at the lake. It had been a long, fun day of playing at the beach and the kids were tired, but they behaved well, until the floodgates broke and Maddie, freshly 3 years old, broke down. With her wailing loudly, I quickly departed the party with the girls and started the walk home, three houses down.

The tears suddenly stopped—not unlike my Mom when the company arrived. “There’s a chipmunk,” was the reason, and we spent a few happy minutes watching the chipmunk explore the holes along the wall, until it finally chose one to disappear in. “Okay, let’s go,” I said, and I took Maddie’s hand. The wailing then took up right where she had left off. Not to laugh at someone else’s tears (okay, I did), but imagine that!