Mom woke from a nap and asked Rhiannon and me, “Have you seen Rico?”
My daughter and I had never heard of him but mom is 92 and her mind has become like a kaleidoscope of the last nine decades, randomly clicking memories into focus that become her current reality.
“No, I haven’t seen him, who is he?”
“He was my old boyfriend. He was here earlier. I think he’s upstairs now with Savannah. I think she stole him from me.”
I smiled at Rhiannon and pressed Mom further because these tidbits often unlock hidden passages to her past. Stuff we never got to know about before there was dementia.
“Rico Almeida,” she recites clearly, “We dated in high school.”
Aside, and just to me, Rhiannon said flatly, “My money is on dead.”
Then modern technology took over. Whipping out her smart phone Rhiannon Googled - Rico Almeida, New Bedford Massachusetts - where mom grew up.
His obituary was the first thing that came up:
Anthony “Rico” Almeida, a lifelong resident of New Bedford,died on July 1, 2003 at the age of 82.
That would make him mom’s same age had he survived. Rico had been married 61 years to Emily Ramos. They had three children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
He emerged with more definition as Rhiannon planted her pinched thumb and forefinger on the tiny surface of her phone and drew them open to expand the photo posted with the obit. It looked liked it was cropped from a family wedding picture. Rico, was a handsome dark skinned man with a full head of silver hair, and he was wearing a tuxedo. A smile curled under his mustache and in the corner of the image was the hint of a white corsage.
We showed the photo to mom - just the photo.
“Oh yes, that’s him. But he was much thinner the last time I saw him,” she said.
Never mind that was an hour earlier.
After seeing the photo mom was a little melancholy but still insisting Rico was in the house somewhere, “upstairs doing God knows what with Savannah,” she said.
Savannah is my daughter, away at college, and obviously had no role in spiriting away Rico’s affection. She does, however, resemble my mother’s late sister enough to churn up a sibling rivalry, and that could explain the odd configuration of my daughter bearing the brunt of my Mother’s teenage jealousy.
“So what did he say to you?” I asked her, changing the subject.
“Not much really. He said he misses me is all.”
“Well I guess he’ll be back.” I reassured her.
And he did come back.
A rhinestone bracelet I bought for mom at the Christmas Tree Shop for $3.99 became a symbol of his affection.
“Where did you get that bling grandma?” my daughter asked her.
“Rico gave it to me.”
A few weeks later mom was having her nails done for a party when she announced she planned to ask Rico to be her date.
“Well,” I said. “How will you get in touch with him?”
“I don’t have his number, but I’m pretty sure he still lives with his parents,” mom told me.
What a delightful place she is in. She is physically frail; gray haired with wrinkled skin and at the same time a teenager who will look up her boyfriend’s parents in the white pages to see if he will take her to the dance. Fortunately, before she realizes that we have no phone book, the whole idea is forgotten.
Lately the references to Rico have been fewer and he seems to be fading from relevance.
I actually miss him.
Edited by Viki Merrick from our Media Partners Atlantic Public Media