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Home  >  Family and Community  >  Family Features
The Reunion
By Julianna Kien

This summer, I went back home to New Mexico to visit with my mother, Ida. My mother is suffering from dementia and is eighty-two years old. She lives with my older sister in Albuquerque. I took my mother back to our hometown, Shiprock, where I grew up during my elementary school days. My mother still has land and a home there, although she lives with my sister. She lives over two hundred miles from the reservation and had not seen any of her friends in years. Ethel Lewis is my mother's friend; she is a little younger than my mother and is a very strong, feisty woman. In her younger days she would walk all over Shiprock, shopping and visiting her friends all over town.

Julianna Kien
We heard that Ethel had run away from the old age home because she couldn't come and go as she pleased and now lived with her daughter in Shiprock. When Ethel saw my mother coming toward her, taking baby steps with a cane, she leaped off the couch like a tiger after its prey. Her face was all aglow with excitement like a little kid opening a Christmas present; she grabbed my mother and the emotions ran high as they both hugged each other and yelled, "Sister!" in Navajo. They both murmured some incoherent words that were lost in their crying.

I stood there and felt invisible, lost in a world of my own, thinking back to a time when these ladies who both were once strong enough to crack a whip, hoe a garden, and weave a beautiful Navajo rug. My throat started to swell up with a sob that I tried painfully to conceal. I quickly brushed away the tears that were streaming down my face. I almost felt like I was invading their privacy because this was such a special moment for them. They both sat down on the couch holding hands like two little schoolgirls.

My mother asked, "Are you still living at the old age home?"

Ethel replied, "I ran away from there because I couldn't come home to visit."

"Oh, really?" my mother exclaimed, "that's terrible!" "Where do you live now, sister?" asked Ethel.

"I live everywhere," replied my mother. "I ride all over the place and live in three places. Wherever my daughter squats for the night is where I live."

"Oh, my," replied Ethel, "you live an exciting life!"

"Do you still weave and walk around, sister?" my mother asks.

Ethel's rug
"Oh, no! I can't walk around like I used to, and I only weave once in awhile." With this reply she showed my mother her left leg which shook uncontrollably. "My leg has been doing this for a while." Both of them sat there and looked at the leg that is shaking steadily on its own.

My mother said, "Can't they fix your leg?"

"Oh, no," replied Ethel, "they say that it cannot be fixed."

They both became very quiet as if to ponder the predicament of Ethel's leg. They slowly looked at each other with anguish in their eyes, knowing that this was something beyond their control. Mom quickly changed the subject to her physical ailments.

"I cannot see very far," explained my mother, "and I have a pain in my leg that won't go away. I take pills for it." They both shook their snowy white heads in disbelief at what life had bestowed upon them.

All of a sudden my mother asked, "Do you still live in the old age home?"

"No, I ran away," replied Ethel, and she proceeded to tell my mother why. I soon realized that my mother and Ethel were saying the same things to each other over and over again! They were asking the same questions but a little more information would be shared after each response. I lost count after the tenth time but was amazed that each response had just as much sincerity and laughter as the old one.

I suddenly felt that I had missed a great opportunity to take a dramatic picture of happiness that Kodak would have been proud of. However, I did capture it. This picture is mine, stored in my mind to bring to life one day and share with my kids -- the day I brought my mother and her friend, sisters, together to rekindle a friendship that has lasted through my childhood into my adulthood.

Ethel and Ida

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