Until recently, the only kids I’ve ever had have tails. A happy pet parent all my life, I am suddenly a new mother.

“How old are your kids?” friends ask.

“81 and 85,” I respond, eliciting almost as much head-scratching as my “kids with tails” quip.

As the only child of elderly parents, I have now been given the opportunity to experience human motherhood through the journey of reverse parenting. Dad’s a teenager, living life on his own, exploring the world. Naïve and trusting, he loves the ladies.

Mom’s an eight-year-old, unsteady, unsure, nervously navigating the labyrinthine world of Alzheimer’s. She calls me “mother” sometimes, when confusion and reality collide in her mind.

In a bittersweet, reverse twist of fate, the daughter becomes the mother; the eight-year-old gradually grows younger. Motherhood is indeed a dubious honor.

Take 3 Breaths. . .

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Songs in the Key of Life

The tiny piano sits silently in my mother’s living room, its yellowed keys beckoning to be played. Its journey began in her uncle’s small Boston apartment almost a century ago.

After Uncle Dougie passed away, the piano moved to her childhood home. She learned on this petite 66-key upright, entire octaves eliminated to accommodate smaller spaces.

The piano accompanied my mother through three husbands, five states, and a daughter who spent twenty-five years finding her way. It now lives in her old farmhouse.

She played hymns; I played Mozart. It appeared in the Mother’s Club float, hoisted aboard a truck bed for the annual Memorial Day parade. My mother played, wearing a top hat, while the Mother’s Club sang along.

The Mother’s Club disbanded; the husbands passed away. The piano remains. But my mother no longer remembers how to play.