will she or won’t she

R.jpgemember, that is. Remember the cousins who are coming to visit on Wednesday. Last month, she remembered them. Tonight, she doesn’t seem to.
She hasn’t seen the couple in more than 20 years. They are in their 80s now and live in Florida — are stopping by on their annual drive to visit the wife’s family.
On Friday, we will take her to visit the Polish priest who was a good friend of my dad’s — gave him those Last Rites. The priest is filling for a colleague who is on vacation this week and whose parish is in the next town. My mother says that she doesn’t remember him either.
I’m hoping that she’ll remember them all when she sees them — when they talk to her in Polish and anchor her in the past that they shared.
We never know, morning by morning, whether she will wake up remembering or not. “Where’s my mother,” she sometimes asks, sometimes asks in tears.
“Do you know who I am?” I ask her on those vacant mornings. “You’re my mother,” she says. “Where’s my brother, Teddy?” she wants to know. She always remembers her brother Teddy. And her husband. The people who took care of her before her memory began its dulling decline.
rayt.jpg I remember well that young man cousin (he was eighteen when I was three), holding me by the hand, showing me the cows and chickens, giving me rides on the tractor, and letting me pick strawberries that I would eat still warm from the ripe fields. We have been emailing as of late, getting to know each other again for the first time.
I’ll bet our cousins can make her remember. They will make her laugh and tell her the stories she has forgotten about the good times on the old farm, where all the uncles and aunts and cousins would gather at least once a summer for a week out of the stifling city. And the adults would sit around at night and sing all of the old Polish songs about a homeland far away but not forgotten.
What I remember most are the smells — fresh hay piled in the barn, hot strawberry jam being ladled by Ciocia Steffa into the dozens of Mason jars she sealed with melted wax, warm milk straight from the cow, tilled fields wet from a day of rain.
What, I wonder, will she remember.

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