To my Mother
Written by
Susan V. Weiss
August 2011
Written by
Susan V. Weiss
August 2011

Two years ago my mother died. By then she was uninterested in continuing to live, possessed as she was by Alzheimer’s disease.

At the time of her death, amidst the dozens of blues I was feeling, I rued that she wouldn’t be around if my book ever got published. Another “publish or perish…which will come first?” concern. It mattered to me not just because she was my mother and I wanted her to be proud of me, but because over the years she had developed into a supporter, if not a fan, of my writing.

When I was a child writer, I’m sure I must have shown or read to her selected works from my simple-minded poems and stories. But I don’t remember anything about her response. I suppose that it must not have been terribly encouraging or I no doubt would remember it, as I remember the excessive praise that my poetry elicited from my fourth grade teacher.

During my early years of college, I began to write more as an adult, albeit an inexperienced and undeveloped one. I was brimming with ideas, with phrases, with images, but I could rarely orchestrate these into a coherent and complete whole. Maybe I read bits and pieces of my bits and pieces to my mother when I was home on breaks. I don’t remember. What I do remember is her telling me one day that I should really try harder to finish some of these fragmentary samples of fiction.

It was one of those inescapable snippets of advice that there’s just no debating. I took her suggestion to heart and got better at writing through to the end of a story. This was especially hard because my storylines lacked momentum, and getting them to move to a conclusion was like pushing a stalled RV up the road.

As I continued to write, I showed her my stories or excerpts from them. Sometimes she said she was moved by them. Once, I remember, her only reaction to a story I wrote was to comment on the past perfect verb tense I’d used in the opening sentence. That was the story I submitted to win a $5000 fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts!

When I began writing the novel that was accepted for publication this year, my mother was already deteriorating. Alzheimer’s preys on not just the memory, its most well-known victim, but on the broader cognitive function of the brain, as well, and on motor control of the body. She still seemed able to read, but I don’t think she could comprehend much beyond literal meaning. Still, I would email each chapter, upon completion, to my father, who printed them out for her (yet only now and then was tempted to read them himself). My mother raved about the writing, gobbled it all up or at least claimed to be reading everything I sent her.

At some point in the progression of the book, I stopped sending the chapters to my father. My mother was struggling just to maintain her side of the simplest conversations. I may or may not have reported to her that I had finished the book, but even if I did, I doubt that she understood, or that she really cared. She had receded into a stasis not much different from constant sleep. And when she slept, she didn’t appear at peace, or restful—more like burrowing her way out of the crazy, kaleidoscopic consciousness of her life.

I wish I could have announced my big news to her--that my novel was going to be published. I wish I could have seen her spontaneous smile, or at least heard the excitement in her voice over the phone. My mother would have been proud of me. She would have been happy for me, knowing how important this was to me. She would have, except that she was no longer there. I am saddened by visions of her straining her way through chapters that were incomprehensible to her and probably made her feel stupid. She tried to hide her dementia from us. But even so, I can tell her—whether or not any vestigial form of her can hear—that her increasing faith in me as a writer over the years made a big difference.

Thank you, Mom!

Let's be friends

The Women Behind She Writes

488 articles
12 articles

Featured Members (7)

123 articles
391 articles
54 articles
60 articles

Featured Groups (7)

Trending Articles

  • Writing In a Voice Other Than Your Own
  • Show Vs. Tell in Dialogue
  • Top 5 Ways to Actually Show Up at the Page
  • news of dad's death
  • Jump into Spring Cleaning
  • Mary Kubica on Perseverance, Process & Loving Your...

  • Susan V. Weiss

    It doesn't sound crazy, Colleen. A lot of people would say the same. I'm figuring out what I think about all that. Maybe some day...

  • Colleen Green

    It may sound crazy but I believe that your mother does know that you finished your book. She knows in her heart or spirit when she is smiling in heaven. I can only pray that when I self-publish my novel that my fathers will know in his heart and will smile too!