Are you my mother?


Little Janet stood gazing at the Hershey’s chocolate bars on the display shelves below the checkout counter.  I reached inside my purse to locate the folded dollar bills to pay for the few grocery items I could afford that day. 

“Is that all for you today, Shirley? You didn’t get much,” Rosie the cashier said.  

We were neighbors, living only one street apart, and one block from the small grocery shop.  I’d known her for years.  

“Yes.  We’re a little strapped for cash this week.  Making due as best we can.  You know how it is, Rosie,” I said.

It was enough.  Without being excessive.  But less than I usually bought to feed my family. 

Little Janet, three years old, was tugging at my skirt.  I looked down at her.

“What is it Janet?” I said.

“May I have a Hershey’s bar, Mommy?”

“Not today,” I said.

“Please, Mommy?”

“Not today, sweetheart.”

Janet paused a moment, perhaps thinking of what to say next.  Then she took my hand, and looked up at me.

“Mommy.  When I grow up, and I am your mommy, and you are my little girl . . . you’ll want me to give you chocolate.  And I will, Mommy.  I will give it to you.”


There was something about the way she said those words.  The way she looked at me.  Something that for an instant let me believe her future forecast would come true.  Something in her voice I was not able to deny.  I could not explain it then, but I can now.

Fifty-six years later. 

“Are you my mother? Or my daughter?  I can’t get it straight somehow,” I said.

“I’m your daughter.  You are my mother,” Janet said.

“Are you sure?” I said.

“Well, yes.  But you know what.  If you want to think of me as your mother, that is okay,” Janet said.

“I just wasn’t sure.  That’s all.”

I eventually thought she was my mother, at times.  And bless her heart, she stopped correcting me.  Somehow she knew I needed the security of my mother, now and then.  She played the part of mother, or daughter, whichever role provided comfort to me. 


And she brought me chocolate whenever I asked. 


Below are a couple of really good links from Susan Macaulay’s blog.  Janet found Susan’s blog during the last year of my life.  It was very helpful to her.

it doesn’t matter if they know you or not

20 great questions to ask when a loved one with dementia doesn’t recognize you anymore


  1. Beautiful and touching Janet. And a wonderful way to convey the fact that it doesn’t matter if they know you or not:

    Your readers (family members and care partners) might also find this list of questions helpful:

    Thanks for these wonderful stories. You are doing a great job!

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