Ray of Hope

By Georgia A. Hubley

My first instinct was to tell Mom my flight was delayed, but phone calls to her have ceased. I watched with envy, as fellow passengers called loved ones to pass the time. Due to heavy fog our flight from San Francisco, California, to Columbus, Ohio, wouldn’t depart for three hours.

As I waited, fellow travelers shared remnants of their lives, but I didn’t join them in conversation. I was in a distressed frame of mind, fighting back tears and agonizing over what Mom’s reaction would be when I greeted her. Each time I visited, there was always a ray of hope she’d remember me.

My thoughts drifted back to how Mom and I used to laugh when she’d say, “I’m having a senior moment,” every time she forgot a name, place or thing. After all, her friends forgot things. But her forgetfulness worsened. Sadly, my fun-loving Mom, once an independent woman and widow of fifteen years, was no longer capable of caring for herself or her affairs.

The diagnosis: Alzheimer’s disease. Time, today, tomorrow and yesterday are insignificant.

Heart wrenching as it was, there was no other choice but to have her cared for at a convalescent facility. I’m grateful my brother and family reside nearby. As my mind swirled with concerns, I was relieved to hear the announcement that my flight was ready for boarding.

After the plane landed, the Captain’s intercom message concluded with the weather forecast, “It’s seventy-five degrees and cloudy, with severe thunderstorms predicted later in the afternoon.” The forecast for severe thunderstorms caused cold chills to surge through me. Since childhood I’ve been afraid of thunderstorms due to our house being struck by lightning.

When I arrived at the convalescent facility, Mom was sitting on the enclosed patio wearing her favorite outfit: a navy blue and white dotted dress, white shoes and matching white purse. As I approached her, I held on to my ray of hope she’d see me, smile and wave hello.

Even though there was no recognition, I leaned down, gave Mom a hug and announced my arrival from California. She appeared confused, but motioned for me to sit down beside her, “I’m all dressed up, because my daughter is coming to visit. Have a seat; you can visit with me until she arrives.”

I wanted to bolt from the room, but I didn’t. Instead, I sat down next to her and held her hand. She smiled and asked, “What is your name?”

“My name is Georgia,” I replied. Each visit was the same, no matter how many times I said my name; she wouldn’t remember I was her daughter. Although I was devastated, I pretended it didn’t matter. Her attention span was almost nonexistent. I was aware a conversation between us was impossible, but I talked to her anyway, sharing my precious memories that had eluded her.

As I contemplated what to say next, a faint rumble of thunder startled me. I noticed raindrops on the windowpanes. I watched lightning zigzag across the sky. Suddenly, there was a deafening crash of thunder that made me flinch, and I squeezed Mom’s hand too hard, but she didn’t seem to mind.

“When I was a little girl my house was struck by lightning,” I said.

Mom seemed attentive, so I felt compelled to share a chapter from the story of our lives she’d forgotten.

“Mom, one summer evening when I was nine and my brother was seven, thunder clamored and lightning crackled overhead, drowning out your words as you read the Sunday comics to us. The three of us snuggled close in Dad’s favorite brown overstuffed chair, while we waited for the storm to subside.

Suddenly, a bolt of lightning struck the wall behind us, its force so intense we were thrown from the overstuffed chair. The room was in total darkness. Stunned by the sudden jolt, I wondered why I was sprawled on the floor. Lightning flashed, and to my surprise there was a gaping hole in the wall, with electrical sparks flying about the room and the taste and smell of burned sulfur in the air. I was too terrified to scream or cry.

Unrelenting flashes of lightning made it possible to catch a glimpse of my brother crawling towards you as you lay motionless on the floor several feet away.

As I groped through the debris to join you, Dad who’d been working in the barn, charged through the front door carrying a lantern, “Are you all okay?” he asked. “I heard an explosion.”

“Something’s wrong with Mom,” I whimpered.

We watched Dad tend to you. Repeatedly, he called out your name, “Annie, Annie, Annie. Please wake up.”

I was so relieved when you finally spoke, “My head hurts. What happened? Why are we on the floor?”

“Take it easy, you were knocked out cold for a while,” Dad said.

Thankfully, neighbors came to our aid and helped Dad board up the huge hole in the wall, and treated the small gash on the side of your head. None of us could sleep a wink, as the storm raged on through the night.

Early the next morning the storm moved on and patches of blue sky appeared overhead. It was soon discovered that lightning had struck a telephone pole and followed the phone line that lead into our house, which caused the wall phone to explode. A large battery from inside the phone had hit your head and caused you to lose consciousness. Fortunately, you weren’t seriously injured and our house wasn’t engulfed in flames…”  I paused…then ended the story, “And that is why I’m afraid of thunderstorms.”

A puzzled expression crossed Mom’s face, then she grinned and patted my hand, “Thunder and lightning scare me too.”

I gave her a hug and kissed her cheek, “Mom, I love you.”

With Mom’s memory banks empty and mine overflowing, I will continue telling her stories. I’m comforted that tomorrow will bring another ray of hope.

About this writer

  • Georgia A. Hubley

    Georgia A. Hubley

    retired after 20 years from the money world in Silicon Valley to write about her world. Her stories and essays appear in various anthologies and magazines. After two sons were launched into adulthood and the nest was empty, Georgia and her husband relocated to the Nevada desert.

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5 Responses to “Ray of Hope”

  1. Alvina Gonzales says:

    I loved this story

  2. Linda O'Connell says:

    Your story is a heart toucher. I enjoyed it. Keep telling those stories!

  3. Rose Ann says:

    We understand illnesses that can be cured or managed by a pill or a treatment. Alzheimer’s is so diverse and hard to comprehend. So glad you have found your way to making peace with it. Beautifully written article.

  4. Margaret says:

    Such a wonderful heart tugging and beautiful story about pain and hope.

  5. Paul Hastings says:

    very heart warming article and absolutely of importance to agree with whatever the person has to say. My dear Mother had Alzheimers and she thought i was her brother Bill. I never told her otherwise, because I knew she could not comprehend anything any longer.

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