An hour into our most recent visit, for the third time my mother asked, "Is it Saturday?"

And for the third time I said, "No, Mom, it's Monday."

"So you see, as I keep telling you, I am losing my memory." Looking at me, as if to explain, she pointed to her temples. "Soon I won't know who I am."

"On the contrary," I tried to assure her, "Your memory is fine, even for someone much younger than you."

"Everyone's younger than me."

"That's remarkably true," I said, smiling proudly, "And wonderful."

"So why don't I know what day it is?" she persisted.

"Neither do I," I said, half truthfully.

"So why don't I know what day it is?" she persisted.

"Neither do I," I said, half truthfully.

Picking that up, she said with a sly smile, "You're just trying to make me feel better about myself."

"I am, that's true, but as you know, I always try to tell you the truth. Even when it might be unpleasant. Really," I continued, "I get mixed up too. If it weren't for the New York Times, when each day there's a different special section, I wouldn't know if it's Tuesday or Wednesday. The Tuesday Science Times helps as does Wednesday's Dining Section."

"Last week, for example," Rona joined in, "on Thursday I thought it was Saturday and on Friday too. Then, when it was actually Saturday, I thought it was Friday. Talk about being mixed up!"

"You're making me even more confused," my mother said. "I know you're trying to help, but you're not."

We both mouthed apologies.

"Let's assume you're at times mixed up about the days," I decided to press on. "In truth, what difference does that make?"

"Or the time, for that matter," Rona added. "Maybe only when it's time for dinner of to take a medication. Other than that, why is time any more important than what day of the week it is?"

"When you get to be my age, darling, everything you're still aware of will be important. Nothing is unimportant. We hold onto to whatever we can hold onto. Time is one of those things. And what day of the week it is. These may seem small to you, but to me they're very important. It's how I measure myself."

"Measure yourself?" I asked. "I'm not sure I'm following you."

"How well I'm doing. Or how not so well."

"I understand," Rona said more to me than to her. "You've always been such a perfectionist and for most of your life you met your own standards. And now maybe . . ."

"Maybe not very well."

"I disagree," I said, "Not with the measuring part, but with your self-assessment. You, for example, always prided yourself on your handwriting and . . ."

"How important is that? Handwriting?" She shook her head back and forth.

"Admittedly not the meaning of life, but I'm mentioning it to make a point."

"Make your point."

"And," I said," it's still much better than mine. Your handwriting."

"It looks like chicken scratching."

"My friends have trouble reading handwritten notes from me."

"I mean mine. My writing looks like it was done by a rooster."

"What does this have anything to do with what Mom wants to talk about," Rona admonished me.

"Sorry. Rona's right. I got us off on a tangent and . . ."

"That where I am these days. On a tangent. Just like you said, I'm living my life on a tangent."

"That's not what I said, Mom. I was trying to acknowledge that by my bringing up your handwriting I got us, you off on a tangent. I'm sorry. Let's get back to what's on your mind."

"That I think today's Saturday."

"And as I tried to say, who cares? Why should you or us for that matter care. Unless we have an appointment for dinner or something. I read the Times sometimes on Thursday. I mean, Tuesday's New York Times on Thursday. You see how mixed up and confused I am about the days of the week?"

"You're young," my mother insisted, "So there's no reason for you to care because you're still good upstairs." Again she tapped her temples. "When you . . ."

"I should only be so lucky. I hope if I only get to 90 I'll be half as good as you."

"Are you patron of me?" she asked.

"You mean am I patronizing you? No. Absolutely not. You're the last person in the world I would do that too. Why you're . . "

"All mixed up." She tried to hide a smile.

"You know, yesterday, which was Sunday," Rona said, also smiling, I didn't get out of my PJs all day."

"Your what Js?"

"PJs, pajamas." My mother nodded. "We didn't need to go out for anything and I was comfortable in them, so I didn't take them off."

"And I didn't shave."

"Many men don't shave on Saturday."

"Sunday," I corrected her. "But I always do. I don't know exactly why. Maybe it's a pride thing."

"Or something else," my mother said, I thought with a wink in Rona's direction.

"Something else?" I was confused again.

"You want to put a good face on to the world."

"I like your pun," Rona said.

"Or to yourself."

"To myself?"

"Yes, like I have been trying to tell you, when you get to be old--and you are also getting to be old." I shrugged as if to say I prefer that to the alternative. "Things like dates and times and shaving are important. As I said, as a measure. 'How am I doing?' you ask yourself. 'Do I know what day it is? Is it Saturday? or Monday?  Did I shave? Am I still wearing my PKs? Do I know where I am? Can I still hold a pen?'" She winked again. This time at me. "'Do I still know who I am?'"

At this last rhetorical question Rona and I exchanged a long look.

She sensed our anxiety. "I can still answer all of those questions," she said, this time to assure us.  "I know it's not Saturday. Tomorrow is another story."

I said, "Tomorrow will be Tuesday."

"Are you sure?" Rona, by far the youngest of us, asked. This time she winked.

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