Wednesday, June 8

Muhammad Ali and My Mom

As sports celebrities, journalists, and commentators gather this week to share their memories of Muhammad Ali upon the occasion of his passing, I thought I would share one of my own personal experiences.  Back in 2001, I had the opportunity to bring my family to the White House when President Clinton presented the Presidential Citizens Medal to, among others, Muhammad Ali.  A last-minute event arranged soon before Clinton left office, it was scheduled on a weekend just before my mom had a long-standing doctor’s appointment to assess her slipping memory. My family and I had a wonderful experience with the honorees, chatting and having our photos taken with the gentle, radiant Ali. 

The morning after the event, I put my mom on a plane at 6:00am and by 8:00am my sister had picked her up from the airport and gotten her to an appointment at Ford Hospital, an island in a sea of decayed, abandoned buildings in downtown Detroit.  The doctor brought my mom out after his exam to report to my sister with great alarm that he had asked her the standard question, “Do you know who is President of the United States?”  to which my mom quickly and cheerfully responded, “Yes, Bill Clinton.  I had dinner with him last night.”  The doctor, stunned at my mom’s cognitive decline, asked her where this took place and if anyone else was present.  “Oh, at the White House, and yes, Elizabeth Taylor was there with her dog.”  My mom went on to tell him about all the other stars in attendance as the doctor sadly shook his head and looked out at the wasteland outside his window, wondering at her vibrant imagination in such a dismal setting.

When the doctor brought my mother out to my sister in the waiting room, he declared, “Your mother not only has dementia; she has illusions of grandeur.
  She believes she had dinner at the White House last night with Muhammad Ali and Elizabeth Taylor.”  When my sister assured him that this was true, he retorted that obviously our mother’s fantasies were a shared psychosis.


Anonymous said...

What a great and touching story, and lasting memory to enjoy!...

- Dave

Unknown said...

Love it!