Mom’s illness took nearly everything from her. A game show showed me she was still my mom.
by- Posted on Jun 16, 2016
I got comfy in my armchair next to Mom in the family room and turned on the TV just in time to hear those familiar words: “This…is…Jeopardy!” Playing along with the game show every night at 7:30 was our mother-daughter tradition. In her prime, Mom rattled off the questions to answers on topics from sports to literature without breaking a sweat. I could rarely compete with her. Not anymore.
“I’ll take ‘Written By’ for $800, Alex,” one contestant said.
Alex read the clue. “‘Mansfield Park,’ ‘Northanger Abbey.’”
“Who is Jane Austen?” I shouted. Mom just stared ahead blankly, like she was watching static. She hadn’t spoken in over a year.
Mom had Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a rare and progressive neurological disorder, and I’d stepped in as her caregiver. Her illness impaired her mobility, vision, swallowing and, eventually, robbed her of any speech. She spent most days confined to her hospital bed in the family room. It was impossible to tell what she was really thinking. Did she still enjoy watching Jeopardy! with me? Was she still Mom? Not even Alex Trebek had the answers to those questions. Maybe it was silly, keeping this tradition going. I said a silent prayer for some sign that our time together still meant something.
I played along solo. Finally, Alex announced it was time for Final Jeopardy!—Mom’s favorite part of the game, mine too. I leaned in. Alex read the category—America—and the clue. “It says, ‘Prudence… will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.’”
“Okay,” I said, “that means it must be some famous American document. Maybe the U.S. Constitution?” Could that be it? I racked my brain, but failed to come up with anything better.
Suddenly, a low, but firm voice spoke beside me. Just as the buzzer sounded.
I stared at Mom. On TV, Alex confirmed her correct response: “What is the Declaration of Independence?” How in the world? I squeezed Mom’s hand, overcome.
Mom and I continued to watch Jeopardy! in the evenings. And I knew, without a doubt, she was playing along.