To the woman in the booth behind us--I apologize for my mother. She isn't aware she is staring at you "watching you eat." All she is aware of is the activity around her, and the music of voices raised in conversation. All she is doing is looking around her with the wonder of a child trying to see everything, but without the ability any longer to know that she might offend. I will not deny her the joy she finds in going to dinner, although all she will remember is the joy but not what caused it.
To the kids on the sidewalk behind us--I apologize for my mother. She shuffles rather than walks. We go slowly, with her trustingly holding my hand as I did hers when I was a child and these roles were reversed. She can't hurry up. Pushing her or calling her names cannot make her walk any faster. Her body and her mind are fragile now and neither will be getting any better. So walk around us quietly, and hope it will never be you and your mother walking slowly together on the sidewalk.
To the man in the checkout line--I apologize for my mother. She is living in a world of 70 years ago. She meant no offense and intended a compliment when she called you a fine-looking Negro. Your harsh words will make no difference to her. She can't remember them, and all she will remember is hurting because someone yelled at her.
To Mom's friends--I apologize for my mother. She doesn't remember the you of today. When she sees you when we are out, you are a stranger. She will greet you with the inborn graciousness she has always possessed but she doesn't know you. The you of yesterday, however, is a source of joy to her as she talks about the things you did together "just last week."
To my cousins--I apologize for my mother. As her nieces and nephews she has always loved you all dearly. But she doesn't know you now. Most of the time she doesn't know that I am her daughter. A little more of her slips away every day. But as she looks at the family photo albums the love she feels for you has not dimmed.
To my husband--I apologize for my mother. She has always loved you as a son. I see the pain you feel watching her fade further and further away from us every day. I have watched you build a place for her in our home without a word of thanks from her or even acknowledgement of your accomplishments. I couldn't do this without you. Your support and love for both of us keeps me going.