When a Mother and Daughter Reverse Roles

So much of this moving tribute to mothers and daughters resonates for me, particularly in the details. My mom left behind lists of attempted spellings and basic “who I am” information, too. The cruel, yet uplifting, glimpses of lucidity in the murk that became her relationship with her six children when she remembered us, they remain. This piece captured the conflicts inherent in watching those we love age, with or without the dreaded dementia.

Longreads

Marlene Adelstein | Longreads | November 2017 | 8 minutes (2,061 words)

Recently my boyfriend and I became completely absorbed in a PBS nature documentary about baby sea otters separated from their mothers in Monterey Bay, and the group of passionate scientists whose mission it was to rescue and rehabilitate them. One particular pup, a bundle of brown fur, dark soulful eyes and long whiskers, whom the scientists named 501, was weak and sickly and couldn’t groom or forage for food, crucial tasks its mother would normally perform. So the scientists took the pup to their research facility to nurse the orphan back to health.

At the rehabilitation lab, handlers wore dark ponchos and faceless Darth Vader-like welder’s masks so the otters wouldn’t become attached to them. Eventually the trainers brought in Tula, an older rescued otter, to act as a surrogate mother. Tula spent months teaching 501 essential otter…

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