From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

Mom Must Be Dying

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.

Marie Curie

My sister Dana whispered to me, “Gigi, Mom’s dying, and they don’t want us to know.” We were in the hallway trying to be as quiet as two teenage girls could be.

I whispered back, “That must be it. I thought Mom was going crazy. Maybe she has an inoperable brain tumor?” I continued on with my diagnosis, “That must be why she hasn’t been to the doctor. There’s nothing to be done.” Tears filled our eyes.

Still whispering, Dana replied, “Mom has been acting strangely: She forgets everything we tell her, she has no patience, and do you see how much she sweats?”

Mom yelled from the living room, “You girls need to stop what you’re doing if it requires you to whisper!”

Making our way into Dana’s room, I plopped on her bed in frustration. I had more news to share with her.

“You won’t believe what Mom forgot, Dana. She was so upset because she had to go back to the store. She went to buy some last-minute items for dinner and forgot them. She said she was distracted because she didn’t want to forget to pick up the dry cleaning!”

Dana replied, “How can you forget the groceries when you only had two errands to remember?” It confirmed to us that her memory loss was getting worse.

Over the next few months my sister and I continued to worry. Mom had good days where she acted like her normal self, followed by bad days when nothing we did was right. She had a very short fuse, and her patience level seemed nonexistent. We resolved to have a bit more patience with her—we didn’t want to be any trouble. Mom carried a hand towel to wipe the sweat that dripped from her face, and she also had trouble remembering our conversations. We both tried to ignore her obviously embarrassing sweating episodes and offered to help fill in the blanks when she forgot what she was about to say midsentence.

Dad was clueless. It was obvious that something was wrong with Mom, but he chose to ignore it all. He walked around the house shaking his head and murmuring to himself, “Oh my goodness.” This was a bit puzzling to us; why wasn’t he taking Mom to the doctor? Couldn’t he see how sick she was?

One day after school, I stared in amazement as my mom began to sweat while watching television. The sweat ran down her beet-red face, and her shirt soaked up the moisture as she desperately fanned herself and wiped the sweat with a towel. It was probably bad timing to remind her that I was supposed to go to my friend’s house to work on a class project and we had planned on meeting at 4:00 PM. I gathered my books and the materials I needed to bring with me, but when I told her that it was time to leave, she said that I couldn’t go because she didn’t know about it!

I yelled in frustration, “Mom, what is wrong with you?” Teary eyed, as she often was, she turned a darker shade of red—which I didn’t think was humanly possible—and shouted at the top of her voice, “I’m going through menopause!”

I had no idea what menopause was (this was long before HRT, wild yam creams, natural estrogen pills, or the oh-so-helpful prescription drug commercials), so I asked her. She explained, in the same short cryptic dialogue she used when she gave me “the talk,” that when a woman reaches a certain age her monthly cycle stops. Because of this, hormones can fluctuate during that time, resulting in hot flashes, mood swings, and memory difficulties. No brain tumor, I thought. I was relieved. I could hardly wait to tell Dana that Mom wasn’t going insane or dying!

As we were driving to my friend’s house, I asked Mom, “How long does it take to get through menopause?”

When my Mom finally stopped laughing, she wiped her brow and replied, “You don’t want to know.”

Genevra Bonati

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