Yesterday was Daddy’s birthday. He would have been 96. In December it will be 15 years since he died of cancer. Mom doesn’t always remember how he died, or even that he’s dead. It is sad to have to remind her when she asks, “Is Daddy gone? I sometimes think he’s here.” He fought his colon cancer for two years; at the end he was in a lot of pain. Mom took care of him the whole time by herself and refused hospice until two days before he died. It is hard to understand why she doesn’t remember this period of her life. Her memory was good then, but maybe the overlay of time has made that part of her brain fuzzy too. I was worried that Mom would be emotional about the day so I called her last night. She was fine. We had a short conversation and she didn’t bring up the subject, but I’m glad I called.
It’s interesting what memories my mother wants to talk about. With her ability to remember present day events weak, she has reverted to the past. Her favorite topic is “the cabin”. When Mom was younger, it must have been when she was a teenager, her parents bought a large three story cabin in the San Bernardino mountains. On a clear day she would often look up toward the mountains and say to my sister and I, “You can almost see where the cabin used to be.” Of course as the years went by and the smog drifted into the valley we couldn’t even see the mountains. My grandparents sold it long before we were born. Something tells me it may have burned down.
That cabin is now very clear in my mother’s mind. She can tell you where it was located on the road up to Lake Arrowhead on a cliff overlooking the valley. She can take you through its many rooms and talk about the large stone fireplace in the living room. But what she most likes to talk about is who rented the cabin for periods of time. Madeline Carroll, who was a well known movie star at the time, was the renter. You can imagine being a teen how excited my mother would have been at the time. She talks about how when her family came up to stay in the cabin her best friend Letha would come also. The two girls would look through many of the things Madeline would leave there, trying on her clothes and using her perfume. She remembers one time Madeline was staying there with who they thought was her husband, until my grandfather read in the paper that the husband was on safari in Africa at the time. My mother always wondered who “the other man” was. Though such an event from the Hollywood set would not cause much of a stir nowadays, back then it would have been scandalous. I’m glad my mother has these memories to hold onto; it helps to fill the void of her everyday remembrances. I like to hear her talk about them, but I’m often taken aback when she says, “I wonder if Daddy (her father) ever sold the cabin?” I think so. He’s been gone 47 years. I say to myself.