S he’s gone again. “Have you seen my mother?” I ask an acquaintance on the street outside my mother’s apartment. “I knocked on her apartment door for a while, but there was no answer.”

“Maybe she’s sleeping?”

“I called her on the phone several times but there was no answer,” I say.

I head to the shopping center my mother frequents and pace frantically back and forth. “Have you seen my mom?” I ask anyone who passes by. “Anyone seen my mother?”

“What does she look like?” a passerby asks.

“Well, she’s hunched over, her hair is all white and covered in a kerchief, her teeth are missing, she doesn’t hear well.”

“Lady, that description fits just about every old woman.”

I hear him but I refuse to accept what he says. My mother is not just any old woman.

“Oh, but you remember my mom,” I plead. “You know, Yaffa, the lady with the fiery red hair who used to walk around with a purse full of toffees. She would give them out to the cashiers at the supermarket, or to the clerks at the bank, or to the boy who delivered her groceries. She was the one who took care of all the newborn babies for the working mothers in the neighborhood. You must remember her!”

And then, after hours of searching, I find her. She is in the park, sitting on a bench and feeding the pigeons that encircle her. She’s totally immersed in the task at hand and does not notice me.

Where is my mother? I wonder.

Where is my mother who used to answer the phone on the first ring because she knew instinctively that it was me on the other end? Where is my mother who used to answer the door by singing, “Welcome, Hoffman Family”? Where is my mother who knew, at the first sound I uttered, when something was wrong? Where is my beautiful mother with the long red braid cascading down her back, whom everyone once knew as Yaffa with the fire-engine hair?

But see, those people are all gone now. She is the only one left. She is the only one who shuffles around the neighborhood, lugging her history behind her like a suitcase. And for the new generation, she is just another old lady.

She is still here with the living, but the living in her is fading.

At times I catch a glimpse of the familiar; in a moment of clarity, she suddenly remembers me. She tells me things beyond the standard fare of “I’m fine, please send regards to your husband and children.” She addresses me using my nickname and expresses her admiration of me in a language that is all her own. She is attentive. She is there. Those are the moments I relish. I try and hold on to the feeling that she still loves me and is showing me that she cares. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 567)