And that was the Truth (According to Mom)

And that was the Truth (According to Mom)

Fitting that it was in February (2016)—
the month itself unsure of its own days—
when that simple memory test tripped me up
(like so many other simple tasks of late),
but I told you, several times (about the doctor),
“He never said
And that was the truth.

But my mind wouldn’t mind anymore.
Never fond of water, I found myself afloat,
drifting past memories unmoored from their meaning;
knickknacks knocked loose—still in their right places,
but lost to me.
Perhaps it was the unspoken bitterness
of those countless little losses
that led me to place a bowl of sweets in every room.
“Would you like a piece of candy?”
And that was the truth.

That Christmas letter was my letter
my yearly yuletide telling of the happy happenings
(and sometime sorrows) of our life—
until the telling proved too much,
and the words refused to come,
and the letter that was my delight to write
became a casualty of the chaos now rampant in my mind.
“Okay, Fred, I guess it’s your letter now.”
And that was the truth.

Mom playing Thirteen, March 2019

It wasn’t so much the games, but the good of being together—
of hearing my family’s laughter—
that kept me at the kitchen table year after year
until only Thirteen was left.
Then even the laughter grew too loud and confusing
and I was content to play Solitaire, sheepishly admitting,
“Sometimes I play by my own rules.”
And that was the truth.

Cribbage, now that was less a game
than the very rhythm of my days in these later years,
played daily after lunch and supper—
the inertia of my mental muscle memory still strong …
(until it wasn’t), so that one day
I stopped asking to play.
And that was the truth.

I loved to read—more books than shelves
(and there was no want of shelves!), but at some point,
the words developed a mind of their own;
by the time I turned the page, the words I’d just read
had already scattered themselves, hiding with gleeful mischief
until I tired of looking for them.
Then crosswords, Wheel of Fortune, and word searches
became the length of my words.
Like my memory: short. And shorter.
And that was the truth.

Each night I made myself my “evening nip”—
a little blackberry brandy and cranberry juice—
and I offered to make you one each time I made one for myself.
Afterwards I always reminded you, “Now I’ll go crawl in bed
and wait for your father to come join me in an hour or so,
to hold my hand for a while before we sleep.”
And that was the truth.

My children were my greatest joy …
until my grandchildren came along …
until my great-grandchildren came along …
until my great-grandchildren faded away …
until my grandchildren faded away …
until my one deceased child faded away …
and (on a good day), at least I still knew my other three children—
even though the joy was but an uncertain whisper anymore.
“And you are … David? Deon? Deb?”
And that was the truth.

Daily drives—no, twice, thrice, and more:
the gentle glide of the car past familiar-forgotten sights,
the cemetery where my familiar-forgotten son lies,
and the lakefront somehow settling me back into myself
again and again and again. Although somedays
I didn’t even recognize our house on our return,
but that one August night, Fred, after you drove me forever,
(you thought fifty miles!) we pulled into the driveway,
and still I said, “Can’t we go just a bit further?”
And so, for love, for me, you pulled back out
and we drove some more
until at last you brought me
And that was the truth.

David R. Weiss — April 28, 2023


I started this poem last fall (2022). But I only got as far as the basic idea for the first verse: Mom’s insistence that the doctor never said Alzheimer’s; and the final verse: her request to drive “just a bit further” after the already record-long drive. Plus the refrain, “And that was the truth.”

I jotted out the “topics” for the other verses, and that’s how it stayed, scrawled in one of my journals. Perhaps too tender to do more with it. Until Thursday.

At church that morning, as part of our “TED comes to church” faith formation series, we watched Nora McInerny’s TED Talk, “We don’t ‘move on’ from grief. We move forward with it.” (It’s one of the most-viewed TED talks, with close to 7 million views on

During our 40-minute discussion afterwards, we each reflected on how this talk intersected our own experiences of grief. I shared that I experienced much more grief during the five years before Mom died than at her death (or since).

After I got home, I decided it was time to pull out those pages and finish the poem. Filling in each topic and creating the lines that led into the refrain. Late last night, after I had finally finished it, as Margaret read it, I lay on the bed next to her and the tears came. Sadness, yes. But also simply for having told the truth, beautifully and tenderly.  ~DRW

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