DIANE MAKAR MURPHY Mother's Day provides a time to remember

On Mother's Day, we loaded my mom's wheelchair into my sister's van and headed to Rockefeller Park on E. 88th St. in Cleveland. The tulips were in bloom, so we planned a picnic at the greenhouse there. It was beautiful.
My dad has always been a meat and potatoes guy, so such excursions seem rather pointless to him. That is to say, bohemian picnics in the park are not exactly his Kentucky Fried Chicken and mashed potatoes. Bread, cheese and strawberries do not a picnic make.
& quot;A flower garden? Why? & quot; he asked the day we made our plans.
& quot;Don't worry about it. Mom will like it. & quot;
Getting out: I like to take my parents places whenever I visit. First, I think they ought to get away from their apartment. (Just like you and I should get out of our houses after a long winter.)
And secondly, I like to have an activity to lean on -- like going to a movie, the mall, a walk -- because it has become difficult to converse with my mom the more her palsy progresses.
My mom's speech therapist cut them loose after just six of her approved 10 sessions. She said my mother and father could handle the exercises on their own. & quot;They'll be fine, & quot; she insisted when I inquired.
& quot;Bbbbbbb. Kkkkkkkk. Dddddddd. & quot;
& quot;OK, Betty. One breath. Hold it, hold it. Release. & quot;
But the therapist was wrong. My parents don't practice without the impetus of knowing they must perform weekly for the therapist. Each week, they practice a little less. And each week, it gets a little harder to understand my mom.
She can manage one word at a time. She attempts sentences, but these often fade away after a few garbled words. We all wait patiently for a bit, then we guess, then the conversation moves on without her.
So the garden was wonderful. It was a little cool, if you recall, but the sun was brilliant. I couldn't get over the colors: vibrantly pink tulips, my dad's bright blue jacket and red shirt; electric yellow flowers, white Sweet Woodruff. Plus, we saw everything from lemon trees to cacti.
Since my mom can't see very well at times, I was happy for the sound of waterfalls and fountains, and the dizzying scent of lilies in the greenhouse.
Fond memories: Afterward, we hunted a picnic table, but couldn't find one. We ended up driving to Garfield Park. My sister Chris and I used to swim in its public pool. We walked three generations of dogs there -- Manfred, Mopsy, then Molly. We used to sit in the wooden baby swings locked safely in place by a rectangular dowel, while my mother pushed us and recited a Robert Louis Stevenson poem -- "How do you like to go up in a swing, up in the air so blue? Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing, ever a child can do!"
We found a picnic table in the sunshine. Chris put crystal glasses on the picnic cloth, and we all toasted Mother's Day with wine. The crystal clinked gently; the sounds of children playing came from afar.
My father asked, "Is there any meat? Or butter for the bread?"
No, and no.
He wondered what the strawberry dip was for since no one had brought potato chips.
& quot;For the fruit. & quot;
I can't think too hard about all the stuff that's happening to my mom. A part of me wants to make some sense of it, find the good in it. But, frankly, I'm fighting that part. One day at a time is preferable for now.
And wasn't this a lovely Mother's Day?

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