In many ways my mother seems to have regressed cognitively to her youth. She has lost decades of knowledge and understanding and reverted to ways of thinking that she deliberately chose to leave behind.
Today she was speaking of neighbors down the street, of a "different religion, not like us." Forgetting that I, her daughter, am "not like" her. Yet it is my mother who made me the person I am. It was her expression of religious doubt, her questions posed in my child's ear, her failure to blind acceptance of the religion in which she was raised, that made me the seeker that converted to Judaism.
My choice caused her some mild consternation at the time, but we talked it through and she was always supportive. Each spring she would mail me a care package of kosher for passover treats and boxes of Matzoh unavailable in the wilds of eastern Kentucky.
I accepted easily that her decline in the last few years meant she would no longer be sending me care packages (indeed now I'm the one sending stuff her way). But it did not occur to me until tonight's phone call, that she neither remembers nor understands the choice I made to be a Jew, why I made it, or what it means ("you mean you don't believe in Jesus at all?" she asked in bewilderment tonight); and that for her the hurt of my desertion is totally new and a fresh source of consternation.