We were sent home from work early that day. The world was going to hell and they weren't sure how safe we were in our tall glass building so they just sent us home. I decided to go by Mother's little apartment and make sure she wasn't terrified. Almost by the day, the Alzheimer's was manifesting itself in different ways and killing the mind and soul of the woman who raised us. I wasn't sure how she'd react to a day unlike any this country had ever experienced.
When I went in she was surprised to see me. She was still clear enough to know that I should've been in the office at that time of the day. I noticed that, sure enough, the images on her television were of burning towers and chaos. It didn't seem, though, that those images had rattled her in any way. Her face was still beaming with the joy that always showed itself when company arrived.
"What are you watching?" I asked her. She thought for a minute then said "well, I'm not real sure. That big building there is on fire and it's been on fire all morning. I'm real sorry it's on fire but I'm not sure why we have to watch it all day long." I was reaching for words. I remembered that one of the many symptoms of her bout with Alzheimer's was that often she could remember details of events decades old, but couldn't remember yesterday. So I gave that a try. "You've told me many times how scared y'all were that Sunday afternoon when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Do you remember that?" She nodded "Oh yes, we were terrified." I said "well, today is kind of like that day. Some people have hijacked planes and they're flying them into buildings, even the Pentagon." Her eyes got huge "Really???????" I said "yes, but I think that the immediate danger has passed...now they're just going to be searching for bodies for a long, long time." She said "well that's just awful."
Several moments of silence followed until she said "you know what I noticed? Judy Woodruff has the same stupid hairdo she had when she was on channel 5." Then she laughed. Then I laughed. Her mind had truly become a child's mind, and that day was a good to have a child's mind, unable to wrap itself around all the grief and horror. I took her hand and told her to come with me, I'd buy her a slaw dog. "Can I get onion rings, too?" I told her she could have whatever she wanted.