My mother has a boyfriend and they’re inseparable.
It happened when I left for ten days on an out-of-town petsitting job— the longest I’d been away since she’s been in her memory care home. When I returned, there they were, sitting together on the patio love seat.
She’s giddy, obsessed. “Am I wearing enough lipstick? How’s my hair?” she asks, when he knocks on her door. As I let him in, I’m struck by another Freaky Friday reverse parenting moment. Did she feel the same apprehension when I went to the freshman dance with my first boyfriend? When a college boy took me to a concert?
“They’re definitely an item,” says my favorite staff housekeeper. When I ask if she’s ever walked in on a romantic moment between residents, she grins. “At one assisted living place. . . ” She half-kneels, pointing to her mouth.
How could I not laugh?
It’s the first summer in years we won’t be at camp, and I have to wonder: Is it really summer without camp?
In Maine, we say we’re going “upta camp”—what flatlanders would call a lake house, cabin or cottage.
Enjoyed by family for four generations, camp is my rock. The place where I embrace the extended step-family who grounded me so many years ago, offering a semi-normal life with a brother, grandparents, aunts, nieces, another mother.
Camp is sunrise on the deck with my brother; tubing behind the jetski; chocolate donuts and Orange Crush; kayaking at sunset. Camp is where I snuck out as a teen to meet the boys. And it’s where I unwittingly began writing morning pages two years ago.
At camp, we undock our worries and let them drift away.
Camp is a state of mind.
I’ve left mom alone for ten days for a petsitting job, and I’m as nervous as she was when she dropped me at summer camp, age eleven.
She’s not alone, really. The caregivers in her memory care home look out for her 24/7. The care director texts photos of her at cooking club; playing the harmonica; modeling new hats. I should enjoy this time away.
It’s hard, though, after spending four years with someone who panics when I’m not there every day. Parenting roles are reversed in our demented lives and each time I leave, it’s as if she were a child again, scared her mother won’t come back. Even after the hundreds of times I’ve left and returned, all she knows is that in that moment, I am gone.
Eventually, worry lifts; fear subsides and I learn to trust the process.