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The Beauty of Repetition – A Story Of The Bats
Good Night Moon for the two hundredth time
Crispy fried chicken from the colonel from Kentucky
Hot macaroni and cheese
Orange or yellow, boxed, or home made
And a glass of cold milk at bedtime
Cheek on cold pillow
Rhythms and patterns, the labyrinth of life
I start out to gather my words, herd them into a poem. They said, “no can do”. My words talk back to me. They can be headstrong like that. I know they won’t conform to my poem so I give them up and open the field of prose. Let them run wild and free.
I think they like it there sometimes where there is more openness, where it is wider, bigger more like South Dakota. A lot of space to stretch and breathe. And be the words they were created to be. With less fence lines and gateposts and cattle gates with locks.
Plus, it is difficult to write about bats in poetry. Unless you are Billy Collins or some other very creative and poet laureate-esq writer. Because the words, patterns, memories, recollections that have tried to form a poem have put their collective feet down and said “tell this in prose.” I assume your words talk back to you in a similar way.
She keeps telling the bat stories over and over again. And we laugh and feign misery and say”no not again, don’t tell the bat story.” And then we spell as if she can’t and say, here comes the b-a-t story again. Being a child and being an adult are not that dissimilar. Familiarity is comforting. And patterns are guideposts to our living.
Repetition comforts. Pattern calms. Tradition and customs and pilgrimages restore our souls with the balm of the familiar.
I walk to the spring and stop. Stare at the water trickling down. Measure with an invisible yardstick in my memory. Check to see if the water is coming from the spring in a rapid or slowing rate. Twenty something years of going to Wynne Lithia Spring and it’s new every single time. The beauty of repetition restores me. I stop and lose myself in the beauty of the spring. And remember my memories of this place. I have stockpiled them. Hoarded them. Hold them tight.
She asks me if I have read this book, the one in her hand, the one by Flannery O’Connor. And I say yes parts, until I realize it is a different Flannery O’Connor book. And I remind her of the author’s love of peacocks. Thinking we’ll discuss the short stories with tales of the peahens and peabiddies. And she said yes, “I see that now in technicolor on television.” And I haven’t a clue. Until I catch up with her mind and her world and where she has gone. She is not in the room. Her look is far away. Empty. Vapid. And I am lost.
Dementia is a game player. One moment we are discussing Flannery O’Connor and the next she is remembering NBC’s early logo from the television of her youth. I go there, with her, in my mind. And follow this trail to her past. Where I learn. And revisit. And uncover. And secretly wonder about this place of distant remembering that she goes to brush off the dust and bring back a treasure from her past.
I was thinking of O’Connor’s beautiful peacocks, her beloved peacocks from her youth. Mother was thinking of NBC. As the crow flies, they aren’t that far away. You must learn the language of dementia before you can communicate with it’s strange dialect. The nuances. The subtleties.
We cross our legs in laughter. Red faced and breathless. The bats came walking into the powder room one day as she sat there. Stunned. Amazed. Bewildered. And then they came from the bookcase during another time in her life. We zig zag through the stories of the bats. And where do all these bats come from. And why is there a series of unfortunate bat stories in this family. And aren’t we all a little batty anyway.
There are other “bat stories”. No not stories of bats. But ones she repeats. The stories of her youth and childhood. The ones that are emblazoned there in her mind. She grabs the photo album. We sit down side by side. And she shows me the pictures of us again. In Boston. I am two.
And I savor her narrative of this faded photograph album.
And listen to her telling of us.
As if it is the first time. Because like my visits to the spring. Her stories are always welcome and new. With an added piece of herself, folded into the telling. And if I listen with the ear of a child, I will walk away, wiser. Changed.
By the beauty of the repetition. And dementia loses another battle. And we are winners, again. We beat back the dark and stand in the light. And say “Wonderful story, mother. Tell us again.”