Life cycle

I visited Mom this morning about 45 minutes before lunchtime. On Sundays, I typically visit just before lunch or dinner to get the visit in but also to have an automatic deadline built into the visit. My stepmother teased me early on about figuring out that strategy. Her mother was in the same facility, on the nursing home side. She visited her mother every Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout her mom’s stay there – the three days of the week on which she didn’t work. I don’t manage that. Usually Sunday and at least one weekday, I get over to visit, scoop litter, check on various supplies and just see how Mom is. That is my usual plan, but Mom’s needs sometimes dicate the need for at least one more visit each week.

I feel sort of guilty about not visiting more, but then again, not. I let Mom’s attitude and mood serve as my guide. If she is having a bad week, I visit more frequently. If she is having a good week, she is adjusted to her environment and has friends she spends time with, gets the rest she wants and is, by my estimation, as content as she is able to be. In fact, last year at Easter I had her over for dinner, and just after we ate, she put her coat on and was ready to go. I felt briefly like I imagine the mother of a teen-ager might feel – Mom was more interested in her friends than she was in me. She wanted to be back in her comfortable environment, chatting with her lady friends in the lobby or the lounge. I actually was quite pleased she had such a strong affinity for her facility. And I frankly was surprised that my feelings were a little hurt. But that is the nature of this relationship – the emotions often don’t make any sense, or strike at the most inopportune of times.

Today, I am feeling primarily relief. When I got to her apartment, Mom was sitting on her bed, studying a pair of socks. I would have guessed that she had just woken up from a mid-morning nap, but her hair looked too combed for that to be the case. We chatted. I got her some better socks to wear today to match her beige and brown outfit. I scooped litter. We sat and briefly watched “Bad Girls Club” on the Oxygen channel because, for whatever reason, that’s what Mom had on – a sign she is really not absorbing what is on her TV at all. And I picked up little bits of trash and threw them away. Mom was never much of a housekeeper, and with weekly cleaning of her apartment, she is living in the most tidy environment of her adult life, I suspect. But she tends to treat the world as her wastebasket. She ate a chocolate from the Valentine’s box my husband gave her and left the wrapper on the table. She leaves tissues lying around, and half-eaten candy bars, and empty cans of nuts. And occasionally her disposable underwear. And she has got something weird going on with socks. I find them everywhere – on her bathroom counter, the floor, her nightstand, her coffee table, in her purse. I wish I could guess what she is thinking about all of the socks.

Mostly, though, she was pretty normal today. She let out a few good guffaws, seemed completely at peace. Ready for lunch. Not particularly interested in me but not unhappy to see me. Oh, and the Canada geese have returned, which I suspect will become her new spring obsession. Last spring, a goose laid eggs on a nest in the yard area right outside the lobby of the facility, and Mom and some of her friends spent lots of time visiting with the goose and observing her motherly activities. Mom said today that she remembers that happening several months ago. She has a good memory for all things animal-related, strangely. Sadly, once the goose eggs hatched, the mother and babies were gone the next day, down to the river, I guess. But the pattern seems to be repeating this year, and for that, I am glad. Little reminders of the cycle of life can be soothing when one is otherwise often contemplating this lengthy path to death.

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