Mom turned 76 today. I really find it hard to believe another year has passed. I guess that’s because her status hasn’t changed significantly in the past year. I took her 75th birthday kind of hard – something about the milestone got to me. This year her birthday did not have that effect.
I gave her the same gift as last year – a Hershey bar. I think she liked it. I apparently can’t embed videos here anymore without paying something, but the link below points to a YouTube video of Mom enjoying her chocolate.
She was funny. I found her lying on a couch in a little alcove along the hallway to the program area. Her eyes were closed and her knees were elevated. Time was short, so I woke her up. I sat down by her feet and started rubbing her legs. She opened her eyes and said, “What have you been doing?” “Working,” I replied. I gave her a little time to wake up and then started offering her bites of chocolate. She did not move her hands, which were wedged under her hips. So I fed her.
After she finished, she was a little bit chatty. She was sweet and occasionally made funny remarks. She said, “Goddamn sonofabitch” a few times, with a hint of disgust. I don’t know what triggered that. When I laughed at her for saying that, she’d laugh. She never changed her position, though. A nurse walked by and said she’s a good lounger. “Always has been,” I said. And that’s the truth. I took another short video, hoping to give an indication of how she talks. Of course, she was much more talkative when the camera was turned off.
I couldn’t stay long but I enjoyed the time I spent with Mom today. I was wedged into the seat and had myself draped over her raised knees. That physical closeness made me think, I am the only family she’s got here, and somehow she knows I am on her side. She was completely unafraid to find me leaning on her when she woke up. It was as if we just resumed the conversation where we had left off on Sunday. She is always telling me a story, and I try to respond in as meaningful a way as I can. When it was time to go, I kissed her forehead and nose. Her nose was cold. As I walked down the hall, I heard her singing to herself and laughing.
I ran into Mom’s current aide Sunday just as I was walking into the program area. I told her I had some clinical strength deodorant to try on Mom, and if it works well, I’ll buy a much bigger supply. “Oh, thank god you remembered it,” she said. I was sort of surprised by that remark. Does Mom really smell that bad? During my visits, I tend to be more offended by her breath than by her body odor. But they must have an issue with it these days, and they should know, given all the hygiene tasks they have to perform with the residents. Heck, with this disease, who knows? Maybe damage to the brain extends to a malfunction of the sweat glands. I wouldn’t be surprised.
Mom was at her lunch table, but she was finished eating. Her tray was gone, but she was rubbing some spilled juice across the tabletop with her fingers. I asked her if she’d like to take a walk and she said, “OK.” That may or may not have been an authentic response to my question. I turned her chair toward me so I could help her up. “I’m eating, I’m eating!” she said. So I turned her back toward the table. She reached toward another resident’s lunch tray. That would have ended in disaster, so I turned her chair toward me again, took her hands and pulled her into a standing position. I took her hand and we began to walk.
We walked toward the door to the courtyard and looked out the window at the sunny day. Mom was chattering on, mostly nonsense, but at this point she said something like, “I wouldn’t want to go there.” And this made me wonder – could she be trying to articulate that she doesn’t like being out in the world anymore? Because I really don’t know when it was she last went outside. And I get no indication that that bothers her. It seems sad, I know. She might enjoy a walk around the courtyard or sitting in the sun for a little while. But I don’t know if it’s worth trying to expose her to those experiences if the process of getting there would cause her stress.
We turned and went down another hallway and turned around when we encountered a closed door. Mom was cheerful – no frowns this time. She talked quite a bit and I reacted in the affirmative to whatever she said. I say she is back to her old self, but I did notice something new – her belly seemed big. She has gained and lost weight numerous times at the nursing home. So she might just be in a gaining phase. Perhaps she walks less. I actually patted her belly while we were walking, just to see how it felt. Sort of firm. She laughed. When we finally reached a stopping point and she sat down in a chair, she draped her arm over her stomach and rested it there. I could tell she was drowsy. I rubbed her legs and arms a little bit, and she didn’t mind. Her head would drop and she would close her eyes, and then she’d pop them open again. After several tries, I figured I was just a distraction and I wanted her to get her afternoon rest. I kissed her cheek and left her to her nap.
The aides were nice enough to have showered Mom before I arrived on Mother’s Day for the annual “tea.” It’s a little party in the dining room off of the lobby with punch, sandwiches and sweets. I have written before about how I feel about Mother’s Day. It is not a favorite of mine, but I have become immune to the ubiquitous marketing and am no longer bothered by it. I am also used to the day being bittersweet. And I am acutely aware that that is the case for many, many people who have either lost their moms, have moms with dementia or otherwise just don’t have much to celebrate on Mother’s Day. At any rate, Mom had been showered and was just being escorted from the changing room by an aide when I got to the program area. And Mom was still feeling the negativity of the experience. She looked good and her hair was fresh. But she had a persistent frown that never did go away.
I encouraged her to take a walk with me and we circled the program area, but I couldn’t convince her to come with me down the hall toward the lobby and the party. So I suggested she take a seat and I went to the dining room and got a plate with a slice of cheese, a mini chocolate eclair and a tiny piece of cheesecake. I brought the plate back to Mom in the program area and offered up the treats to her, which she gladly accepted. She had a little trouble transferring the food from the plate to her mouth, perhaps because we weren’t sitting at a table. I was holding the plate, which made things just a little more complicated than when she eats her meals off of the tray placed in front of her at a table.
I didn’t eat anything because it was mid-afternoon and we had early reservations at a restaurant with my mother-in-law, who was in town for the start of a two-week getaway – her first since her husband passed away in February. I admit it was nice to have that outing to look forward to since Mom was having a hard time letting go of her bad mood. I tried to walk around with her and distract her, and talked to her as sweetly as I could manage. In the past I have been able to stick it out until her mood shifts. But I wasn’t very successful this time. And I admit it kind of irritated me. Of course, Mom cannot help it. She doesn’t want to be in a bad mood either. Frankly I’m glad this disease often frees her of the lifelong anxiety and fretfulness she endured for so many years. But it wasn’t one of my most patient days. And of course I’m not proud of that.
The activities director came around to take pictures of visitors with their resident mothers. She tried to coax a smile out of Mom, to no avail. Then I tried with my own camera. I was unsuccessful, too.
I lasted only about half an hour. I figured I was potentially an irritant rather than a pacifier on this particular day. I knew Mom wouldn’t be sad to see me go. And I just told myself that next time would be better. On my way out, I chatted with the receptionist, and I said Mom was in a bad mood. “Bonnie in a bad mood. Imagine that,” she said, joking. Mom does have a reputation for getting the grumps, especially when it comes to any type of hygiene or instructional activity. But she is also often easygoing. This receptionist is also on the activities staff, so she has known Mom for a long time and she likes to kid with me about Mom’s quirks. I think she’s of the mind that if we don’t laugh, we might never stop crying. Her husband died of dementia.
I just returned from a week away with Patrick and my mother-in-law, the second half of Patrick’s mom’s getaway after she spent a week with her sister not far from us in Ohio. It was a relaxing, peaceful week at our favorite spot in North Carolina. And it’s a reminder that not only do I have a loving mother-in-law, but I also have a very supportive stepmother; this Mother’s Day coincided with Dad and Pat’s 40th wedding anniversary, so she has been a positive force in my life since I was just a little kid. When I’m feeling gloomy about Mom, I remind myself of this good fortune.
I did get one call from the Alz center while I was out of town. A nurse called to inform me that Mom was going to be mildly sedated for an upcoming dental appointment. I was very supportive of the idea. She would just receive a pill about 15 minutes before the appointment. Staff hoped she’d relax enough to let the dentist not only get a good look at Mom’s mouth, but also perform a decent cleaning. I look forward to hearing a report about how it went. The nurse also said aides had requested that I bring in some extra strong deodorant because whatever the Alz center supplies is not effective enough to prevent Mom’s body odor between showers. Mom is going on four years in this place and I have never heard this complaint. But I’m happy to accommodate their request.
A few visits ago, an aide at the Alz center asked me to bring Mom some new clothes. She took me to Mom’s room and opened the closet, pointing to the kinds of shirts that aren’t so great – blouses with buttons – and those that work the best – short- or long-sleeved pullovers. The presence of buttons, the aide explained, seems to encourage Mom to open her shirt when she is hot. She needed some more pants, too. Everything should be as easy as possible to put on and take off.
I never would have guessed that I would ever need to buy Mom clothes again. We filled a walk-in closet with her wardrobe when she moved to assisted living, and we pared down the supply when she moved to the nursing home – but she still had plenty of different shirts and pants to wear, for all seasons. But she is messy, so her clothes are laundered frequently. They are wearing out. Some, undoubtedly, get lost, even if her name is written on them.
So I went to Kohl’s recently to buy some new sheet sets, and scanned the clearance racks for potential shirts for Mom. I found three colorful pullovers that could be worn in any season, really. Long sleeves, but a fairly light cotton fabric. A waffle weave, so they have a little bit of bulk. Mom and virtually ever other woman at the Alz center is braless at this point in her life, so I like Mom’s shirts to at least provide some decent cover to her naked chest. I found three pairs of elastic-waist cotton pants in the petite department. Mom used to be taller than I am, but she is shorter than me now. And it’s just as well if her pants are too short so there is no risk that she will trip over them.
I breezed in last Friday morning to drop off the clothes. My support-group friend was there. His wife was napping. I visited him briefly, but I was antsy about getting to work. His wife came out of her room and asked, “Where’s D?” And he said, “I’m right here.” “Where’s D?” she asked. He put his arm around her. “I’m always right here,” he said. “Where’s my family?” she asked. I patted her arm and said she should give herself a chance to wake up, that she was still out of it. To him, I said, I think it’s a good thing that she lives here at the Alz center now. I don’t think he needs to be convinced anymore. I think being at home with her was hard, and seeing her change in this new setting is hard.
Mom was drowsy when I stopped in, and was lying on a couch. I bent down to talk to her and she sat up and just started chatting away. She was very cheerful. I told her she had some new outfits to look forward to. I hope everything fits, and doesn’t get lost. Though if I have to buy her even more clothes, that would certainly be OK.
As I sat next to my sleepy mom during my most recent visit, a resident nearby wailed from her wheelchair. I didn’t recognize her. I was sort of surprised Mom wasn’t bothered by the noise. Sometimes she doesn’t like a lot of extra sound. Soon, another woman sat down next to her. “You’re alright,” she said gently. And out of the corner of my eye, I could see she was stroking the woman’s arm and hand. And she quieted down. The resident looked young. I wondered if the visitor might be her sister instead of her daughter. I didn’t want to stare. Based on what I could overhear, this resident had just moved in recently. She seemed to be sick enough that she might have been in another facility before the Alz center. But maybe she was experiencing some fear or agitation about the new location. It’s hard to say. Her cries made me sad, and reminded me of the relief I feel about Mom’s content nature. I was glad the resident could be comforted by the touch of her trusted relative or friend.
Meanwhile, I rubbed Mom’s arms and then her shoulders, sort of awkwardly from a chair next to her. When she and I lived alone together when I was a teenager, I used to give her back rubs quite often. She seemed to respond to my gentle touches, nodding her head forward and closing her eyes. It was after lunch, and I had predicted she might be sort of tired. I knew she had enjoyed her food – I had noticed little dark specks on her lips and fingertips, and later saw that dessert had been blueberry pie. It didn’t take long until she seemed to be fully asleep. She had chattered a little bit before she dropped off, but she was so drowsy. I watched her for a little while and then got up to leave.
I passed a table in the program area and found myself looking at a woman I thought I recognized – but I couldn’t figure out who she was. And then I noticed the back of the head of the man sitting next to her, and recognized one of my support group friends. Finally, he had moved his wife to a facility, after having her at home with him for about 13 years. I am opposed to ever saying, “You should…” to anyone when it comes to dealing with dementia. But I always encouraged him to give strong consideration to moving her to a facility, for her sake and for his. To keep her safe, and to restore his health. Or at least I would say, “There is no shame in doing that.” I told him I hadn’t been to support group in awhile, and he said, “I know. You should come. You have important insights.” I have a soft spot for this guy.
I sat down between him and his wife. She looked great – she is such a doll, and very easy-going. She nodded off for her own nap, and I sat and visited with my friend for almost an hour. One of his kids is having a tough time with the facility – she is not very satisfied, I guess you could say. It is such an adjustment – for some people, the care can never be good enough, no matter how good it is. Especially when family have spent 13 years taking care of someone. I hope they can stick it out until they have developed faith in the Alz center. Even now, he spends at least six hours a day with her. I’m not sure how much that is doing for his health. I know he is glad his wife is safe. He said as much.
Since I had been at the center for so long, I went back to Mom and found her awake. I encouraged her to get up with me and take a walk. I took her back to my friend’s table and introduced her around. One woman said, “Oh, she knows me,” which I loved. Because Mom doesn’t exactly know anyone, of course, including me. And then again, I was introducing her to people she actually lives with. That I was just meeting most of them for the first time was a clear indication of how infrequently I visit these days.
As Mom and I found another place to sit so she could rest her head, two aides stopped to tell me Mom had looked one of them right in the eye during a bathroom visit and called her by a name that begins with an “M” and said, “I’m so surprised to see you.” I suggested one name it might have been – an old friend of Mom’s – but the aide couldn’t remember. But she said that Mom seemed so clear that she was encountering a familiar person from her past. I wish I had heard the name, though I’m not sure it’s meaningful. Mom also said out of the blue, recently, as I was sitting next to her, “Emily and Patrick.” It made me feel good, but I think it was nothing more than a brief retrieval of some words and not an actual recognition of me and my husband. Still, it’s nice to hear her say it.
I didn’t consider Easter a special occasion that warranted a visit with Mom. I just thought it was about damn time I finally get back to see her. So I went to the Alz center on Easter. I’m not religious, and I don’t have children, so I don’t really observe the holiday in any way. But Patrick and I do associate the day with food, to some extent. In fact, the last time Mom was at my house was on an Easter Sunday when she lived in assisted living – probably 2008 or maybe 2009. I am sure we had ham and scalloped potatoes, and we had Mom over to eat. And shortly after finishing dinner, she was ready to go back to assisted living, to be with her friends. That stung at the time. Though it was also a great thing, that Mom had pals at that facility. I never had her over again, for a variety of reasons. Mostly because I didn’t think she would get any particular pleasure out of it. I still took her out to Bob Evans for lunches even after she moved to the Alz center. But I assumed being in a home environment might just be confusing to her.
So late yesterday morning, I found Mom lying on a couch, sleeping. I wedged myself onto the end of the couch near her head and started stroking her hair gently. She opened her eyes and smiled, but she didn’t get up. And then a nurse came over and sat Mom up and told her she should wake up for her daughter’s visit. I didn’t really think it was a big deal one way or the other. But this nurse said, “It’s Easter. We knew she’d be here today.” Mom sat quietly for a short while and then I suggested taking a walk to wake her up a little. It was almost time for lunch. We walked in a big circle around the program area, passing by Mr. R, who ignored my greeting. I finally got Mom seated at a table so she’d be ready for lunch. Her tray arrived quickly, and she began to eat right away.
Meanwhile, another woman I didn’t know was shuffling around aimlessly with her walker. I invited her to sit at our table. “I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to be doing,” she said. She clutched her stomach. “It makes me sick to my stomach.” I said maybe she was hungry and that she should try to eat. She repeated her complaints. I coaxed her into a chair. “I don’t know where the hell I am,” she said. I tried to be comforting and encouraging. “That’s not a good feeling,” I said. “But you are safe and surrounded by people who will take care of you.” “I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to be doing,” she replied. I asked her name and got her tray for her. But she didn’t eat. Another woman at our table, someone who has been there since Mom moved in, was dipping her knife into her water and then imagining that she was buttering her cooked carrots. It was quite sweet, really, and harmless. I recalled that at the Thanksgiving meal last fall, this same woman ate butter straight out of the containers on the table.
Throughout all of this, Mom just kept eating, taking bite after bite of her chicken, noodles, carrots and dinner roll. She did a great job, cleaning her plate. She picked up her spoon at one point and tried to use it for a few bites, to no avail. She is quite skilled at eating with her fingers, so I just moved her spoon out of the way. The unhappy woman stood up, refusing to eat. I helped her maneuver herself back to her walker, and she shuffled away, still very fretful. I wished I could say something that would ease her mind, but she was clearly inconsolable.
After Mom finished, I cleaned her hands and stood her up for another walk. We headed back to the couch she had been on before, and she immediately rested her head. I am always looking for signs of change, and I wondered if she might be a little more hunched when she walks. But mostly she is the same as she has been for quite some time: a cheerful storyteller who remains mobile and able to feed herself and who enjoys social companionship. Hearing the laments of her tortured table-mate was an important reminder of how much worse it could be – for Mom and for me.
An employee at the Alz center asked me today if Mom and I are sisters. I know that is a compliment to Mom’s lovely skin and serene facial expression. And I try very hard not to care about whether I look my age, or younger or older. But I was slightly taken aback. I do fly my gray-hair flag with complete comfort. But I have good skin, too, so I don’t think I look like Mom’s contemporary even though she looks young. I didn’t take actual offense. When I told her I am Mom’s daughter, she said she used to be asked if she was her mom’s sister, too, because her mom looked so young. It’s all good. And it inspired me to take a picture of Mom and me together.
Our visit got off to a bumpy start. An aide was looking for Mom at the same time I was when I walked into the program area. She had been told Mom was wet so she wanted to change her clothes. She got Mom to stand up and told her I was there but that she had to go to the bathroom before we could visit. Mom grudgingly went along with her. When they returned, Mom had on a fresh set of clothes. She was somewhat grumpy. I asked the aide how it went. “She hates me. She hates me,” she said. That’s what Mom says when she is changed. But it’s all verbal, nothing physical. I tried to rub Mom’s back and she pushed my hand away. Mom gave me a sneer and the aide said, “Good luck.”
Mom and I walked for a short while, and I could tell she was still agitated. “You’re a son of a bitch,” she said to me. She walked across the program area and sat in a chair. I walked away from her to get my coat, and to let her relax for a second without any disturbance. I pulled up a chair and just talked quietly to her for a little bit. “I hate you,” she said. I was trying very hard not to be upset by this. I hadn’t visited her in a long time – just over three weeks, possibly a record – and I felt guilty about that. Also, the last time I visited she was sound asleep, so we didn’t talk at all. I’m usually convinced Mom has no sense of time, but I wondered: Does she think I stayed away for too long?
I held her hand and started rubbing it gently. I just kept doing that. And I said to Mom that I would love it if she would just smile. “Do I know you?” she said. “I’m Emily. I’m your daughter,” I replied. “You’re Bonnie. Bonnie Caldwell.” She nodded slowly. She occasionally lowered her head and I thought she was probably tired. I gently massaged Mom’s forearm along with her hand. Finally, she laughed. Just quietly, as if to herself. And we began to have what has come to be a normal visit, with her telling short stories but not making much sense, and both of us occasionally cracking each other up. I told her I had missed having a chance to talk to her over these past few weeks, that Patrick’s dad had passed away and that I had had trouble staying in the groove at work. Those two things were related somewhat, I am sure. But I also began to feel, recently, that my persistent bad mood related to missing Mom, too. I am a creature of routine, and Mom is part of my routine. Plus, in the past, when I’ve been down, I’ve just wanted to talk to my mom about it. Some things just don’t change.
I popped in on the Alz center on Valentine’s Day. Two weeks had passed since I had last seen Mom – partly because Patrick and I had been out of town. I realized as I pulled into the parking lot that I had never received a mailing about the annual Valentine’s Day lunch. The lot was pretty full, and I wondered if I had missed the event. The receptionist greeted me with an artificial rose and said, “Happy Valentine’s Day.” I thanked her and asked if there had been a lunch. Not this year, she said. There is new management – could that be why? I wasn’t really sad about it because Mom hasn’t seemed to enjoy these lunches all that much. Lots of extra noise and extra people don’t typically sit well with her anymore. If she doesn’t enjoy them, I don’t enjoy them. The receptionist said there was a monthly birthday party planned for the next day, with cake, so that residents would be getting a treat soon.
Mom was sound asleep on a couch in the program area. I sat on a chair next to her and watched her for a bit. She didn’t show signs of waking. She had on a cute assortment of clothes – her turquoise fleece pajama pants, a pink T-shirt and a brown button-down shirt. She looked good and, of course, relaxed. I stopped at the nurses’ desk and asked Mom’s nurse how Mom has been lately. All fine. No problems and no significant changes. Not surprising, since I had received no calls. But it was good to be reassured. “I heard some really loud singing recently and when I looked to see who it was, it was Bonnie,” she said. That sounded good to me. Loud singing is typically done by a happy person, I reasoned.
When I was visiting with Patrick’s family, my sister-in-law bought some small Valentine’s Day gifts for her daughter – some shower gel and a bracelet. I remember when Mom used to do the same kind of thing – just offer a little something to observe the day. And I recalled a card I got her when I lived in Athens years ago – it featured a black-and-white photo of a woman in a black dress with a long string of pearls that she was holding in a way that made the shape of a heart. I really liked that card, and sent it to Mom as a valentine. I probably thought I was being cool and unconventional. But really, I was just sending my mom a card. I probably didn’t say in it that I loved her, because we didn’t exchange those words much at all. But I hope it was obvious that I did love and cherish her.
Mom loved the movie “Groundhog Day.” I never knew exactly what it was that tickled her about it – the absurdity of the plot, the Sonny and Cher song that woke up Bill Murray each day, Bill Murray himself. She liked to laugh. And the day itself has significance within a circle of our friends – basically it’s a reason to have a weekend-long party each year, where we declare that it’s significant because of its insignificance.
Today offers a different kind of Groundhog Day familiarity. Patrick and I are in Michigan with his family, trying to offer a little respite for his mom and his oldest brother and his family, who all have been looking after Patrick’s dad through an extended hospitalization. But as is typical for caregivers, no one is really taking a break from it even though Patrick, his middle brother and I are all here.
Meanwhile, Mom remains about the same. I visited her in the evening on Wednesday and found her on a couch, reclining after dinner. I greeted her and she said, with enthusiasm, “I thought you were dead.” And then we both cracked up. I’d like to think that’s not a reflection on the week that passed between my visits, but I suppose one never knows for sure what leads her to say the things she says. I talked to an aide who said she had been having a good day, and that she is always easy to work with in the evenings. When she shows signs of getting sleepy, he can gently coax her to her room to be changed and put to bed. She was showing signs of being sleepy while I was there, curling up on the couch and closing her eyes. I rubbed her head and kissed her goodnight.
I was at the Alz center that evening to attend a memorial service for Dr. Liss. Several people who had known him and worked with him for years spoke about his dedication to patients and their families. When the facilitator opened the floor to others, I just made a quick comment. That very day, my colleague had put out a press release about research suggesting that promoting happiness among the elderly can help sustain their working memory and decision-making. And it reminded me of advice Dr. Liss would offer to caregivers who fretted about their loved ones’ agitation. Redirect, he would advise. And try a compliment. For women: “Your hair looks beautiful today.” For anyone: “How about some ice cream?” Keep it simple. In that way and in many others, Dr. Liss’s extended anecdotal experience was way ahead of the research. And that’s why so many of us will always hold him close in our hearts. He knew what we were going through. He really, really knew.
I spent more than an hour with Mom a week ago, visiting her on the MLK holiday. I arrived about half an hour before lunch, thinking I would slip away when she started eating. It just didn’t quite work out that way. And it was fun to be with her, but also complicated at times.
She was pleasant enough when I arrived. We walked around the program area, holding hands most of the time. But she showed just tiny hints of distress from time to time. We got stuck in a hallway, looking out at the snowy courtyard. I talked about how cold it was, but that this outdoor area would be a nice place to walk around once the weather is warm again. “I want to go home,” she said. She really never says this. And because so much of what she says makes no sense, I didn’t take this seriously as a comment that actually meant she wanted to be somewhere else. “This is home,” I said, and we started walking again.
I think she might have been tired. And at the same time, having a restless day. Because I worried that she wasn’t having a good day, I started rubbing her back as we walked. She wriggled in the opposite direction and pushed my hand away. No big deal, I thought, and we just walked some more. I followed her lead from then on, holding hands only when she took mine. We found ourselves in that same hallway, looking at the courtyard again. This time, Mom said, “I love you.” And gave me a big smooch.
Since it was almost lunchtime, I coaxed Mom to settle into a seat at a table. I got a bib and wrapped it around her neck and then went looking for her tray in the cart. I hadn’t been there at mealtime in quite awhile, but in the past Mom’s tray was always on the first of two carts that arrive at noon. A nurse told me where to look, and I shifted a few trays, spilling some juice on one of them. Which made me flustered. I took it out and got a bib to mop up the spill. A volunteer who works lunches three times a week helped me clean it up. I sensed she was just a little irritated. I then pulled some trays out and put them on top of the cart in my continued pursuit of her tray. The volunteer told me it was confusing to her to have those trays put on top of the cart. I decided to give up.
In the meantime, Mom had gotten up and started walking around. I coaxed her back to her seat, again. The nurse sensed my frustration and gave me a tray for Mom, swapping with another resident who would receive Mom’s tray. I appreciated that, because I was beginning to feel like a bother, when I was trying to help. This is a common feeling I get when I try to help around the Alz center, even after 3 1/2 years.
The main dish was tuna-noodle casserole – something that the old Mom would never have eaten. But at this meal, Mom dug in, with her fingers. I sat back and watched her, and told her she was doing an excellent job. She ate every bite of that casserole, and also finished her steamed vegetables. She took a few bites of her bread. I offered her some pistachio ice cream, but she wasn’t particularly interested. She enjoyed a big swig of water. I cleaned her hands with her bib – she laughed when I did this; I wonder if it tickled. And then we set off for another walk.
We wandered close to a couch where Mr. Beard, her sometime boyfriend, was deeply asleep. She sat for a moment in a nearby chair, and then stood again. I encouraged her to find a place to lie down, thinking she could use a nap. Once she settled onto a couch, her knees bent and her head resting on the arm, I kissed her goodbye and said, “Sweet dreams.”