An aide knocks on my mom’s door while we’re talking on the phone.
“Come in, come in,” my mom says.
The aide heads straight for her bedroom to get my mom’s nightgown. She’s there to help her get ready for bed.
“I’m talking to my … my … son,” my mom says.
“I’m not your son,” I say. “I’m your daughter.”
She laughs. “You’re my daughter? Now … don’t try to fool me!” She laughs again.
“But mom, yes …”
She can’t hear me because she’s laughing with the aide, who’s trying to take off her bra.
“Mom, I’m your daughter,” I say.
“You’re a girl?” she asks. “You don’t sound like a girl!”
“I don’t? But I am!”
She’s laughing again; really, she hasn’t stopped laughing since this conversation started.
“Now come on, Beth! … er, you’re not Beth … you’re a boy! You’re … Bud!” Bud was her brother.
Now she’s really cracking herself up.
“You really think I’m Bud, mom?”
“Oh, I guess… I don’t really know,” she says. “But you don’t sound like a girl!”
And so she brings me back to the earliest identity crisis of my life — my wish, in Kindergarten and First Grade, to be a boy instead of a girl. I wore my hair very short (Mom cut it that way!), and I wore very boyish clothes.
“Are you a boy or a girl?” kids would ask.
“Girl,” I would say, but I’d secretly relish the question, loving that this simple fact needed to be verified because it wasn’t immediately obvious. Maybe there was a little bit of boy in me after all, I thought, and I liked it.
Now, in my forties, there’s no question in my own mind that I’m not a boy. It’s so strange, yet undeniably funny, to have my mom bring me back to what seems like an age-old question, at least in my life. Alzheimer’s is no doubt returning my mom to the early days of her life, but it’s doing the same for me as well.