My Mother, the Bedtime Historian

She was at it again, this time with the Presidents.

“I’m going to name all of the Presidents in order — backwards,” my mom said Wednesday night in the New York City hotel we were sharing.

I don’t know how this helps my mother fall asleep, but it does. She goes through various lists in her head, such as NFL teams or the “A My Name is Alice” game, until she falls asleep.

Once when we shared a hotel room on vacation in Massachusetts, she went through Major League Baseball teams, but couldn’t remember the name of Seattle’s team. I thought she’d given up, and so I started to doze off when she blurted, “Mariners!”

And now I was wide awake again. Also, fearful that a group of seafarers were about to storm our hotel room.

This week, though, she encouraged me to join in on her trip down Presidential Memory Lane.

“Obama, W., Clinton, Bush Sr., Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy,” I ticked off for her. “Eisenhower, FDR…that’s as far as I can go.”

No worries, as my mother could not only finish the list, but she also added tidbits for each president. Did you know, for instance, that President Taft was 300 pounds? Or that Rutherford B. Hayes’ wife was known as Lemonade Lucy because she banned liquor from the White House?

I don’t see how any of this information is useful as a sleep aid. My brain hurt just trying to remember who was president before FDR. (Herbert Hoover, considered one of the worst U.S. Presidents, according to my mother, the Bedtime Historian.)

” Wilson’s wife took over as president when he suffered a stroke,” she added. “She signed papers and everything.”

“Exactly how does this help you sleep?” I asked.

“I should do the books of the Bible,” she added. “Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,  Numbers, Deuterotomy…” she rattled off — and kept on going until I prayed to God it would end.

She was quiet a moment and then I heard her whisper, “A my name is Amy and my husband’s name is Al…,” her voice trailed off.

“Good night,” I implored.

“We come from Alabama and we sell apples,” she added before quieting down, her brain no doubt working on the B’s through the Z’s, and maybe an additional presidential tidbit that popped into her head. By then, I was sound asleep.

The next morning, I took her to her doctor’s appointment, where her neurologist asked, “Has she had any lapses of memory?”

I burst out laughing.

“Did you know that President Harrison died of pneumonia after only a month in office?” I asked. “Mom does.”

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