When I arrived at the Alz center for the facility’s Thanksgiving dinner, the parking lot was full so I had to park on the street. I had intended to get there a little early, anticipating that for normal people, a dinner event that starts at 5:30 calls for an arrival of, say, 5:20. But I don’t operate that way for the most part, and I overbook or procrastinate or otherwise plan my arrivals to match the start times of most events, meetings, interviews, etc., that I attend. I got to the center at about 5:28. I might have lower blood pressure if I would stop doing this.
I walked back to the program area and it was packed. Lots of extra tables were set up and most families appeared to be in place. I looked for Mom but couldn’t find her. I walked around and around. Finally, a man held up a sign that said “Caldwell,” and I said, “That’s me.” “You look just like your mom,” he said. She had been sitting at this table earlier, but had moved, he said. I finally spotted Mom at another table, where she was sitting with other residents. I kind of made a big deal about saying hello, but she was frowning. I asked how she was, and she said, “It’s really bad.” She hasn’t said anything like this in awhile, and it stung me a little bit. I walked her over to our table, and we sat down and filled out our menu for the dinner.
An aide came over and told Mom, “See? I told you she’d be here. Everything is OK now.” And she stood Mom up and danced with her a little bit. This was all I needed to hear – Mom had seen this commotion, these extra people, this unfamiliar arrangement. And someone said I would be there. And then I wasn’t there, and I wasn’t there. And Mom got frustrated. Probably felt like people were lying to her. Was overstimulated by the noise and the people. And it made her grumpy. I tried to ease her mind and talk her out of being blue. She wasn’t worried or recalling any fights or anything. She just seemed low. It made me low, sort of. For just a brief moment, I thought I could cry. I’m so used to Mom being in a good mood now so I felt sorry for myself for having to endure a bad mood. I sat with my arm around her. We were quiet some of the time. She seemed to want to complain about how she had been feeling, but could not articulate a thing, really. I asked her if she was mad at me and she said no.
Our food arrived on styrofoam plates with all the usuals: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, all with gravy, green beans, corn, cranberry sauce. Plus for Mom, a slice of ham and sweet potatoes. The residents got one of everything. The guests got what they filled out on their menu. Mom had iced tea and I had water. We ate, and Mom would mumble things about how bad her day had been. I apologized for being late. But she didn’t even realize anymore that what had made her mad was the fact that I wasn’t there. She just recalled feeling angry and frustrated, and was having trouble shaking those feelings. I also noticed that she had deep, dark circles under her eyes. She seemed almost woozy. I thought she was probably tired.
In fact, she was tired. She wanted to go to bed before dessert, but I asked her to wait for the pie. I knew she’d like pie, and I wanted some, too. She had pumpkin and I had pecan. We ate those quietly. We chatted briefly with the family sharing our table. The daughter of the resident in that family said her mother liked Mom’s Crocs, and she had bought her mother a pair. She wanted to get her light blue ones, but couldn’t find them. So she settled for dark blue. We talked about how comfortable they are. That resident was dressed in a fall-themed blouse, had her hair done and was wearing earrings and a necklace. She also moved in in August. I asked her if she likes it there. She said yes, and then she said, “The people who work here have to have a lot of patience to deal with these people.” I said, “Patience is generally just a good thing. For dealing with all people.” I wondered if she was sort of recently diagnosed, given how well she talked and how good she looked. It confused Mom a little bit for me to talk to the other family. Eventually, Mom said, “I’m done.” She seemed just slightly antsy. She asked if we should go home now. I avoided responding to that. I suggested we just take a walk, and she liked that idea. We excused ourselves and walked down the hall to the lobby. It was crowded and noisy, too, so we headed back to the program area.
We stopped and talked to the activities director, who noted that in an art project the day before, Mom had cut out a magazine picture of a handsome man. Mom also had talked adoringly about the 3-11 shift aide, James. She called him her boyfriend whenever he neared our table. I told the activities director that Mom seems to have some renewed interest in men these days, and she said, “Well, I don’t blame her.” Indeed.
Mom said again that she was interested in going to bed. I figured that could do no harm. I took her to her room. Dog/cat was there. She snuggled with him. I took off her shoes and put some socks on to keep her feet warm. I covered her with her new bedspread. I turned off the light but opened the bathroom door to let a little light in. She said, “I’ll probably be in bed in about two seconds.” Meaning she’d be asleep fast, I’m sure. I suspected that was true. I kissed her goodbye. On my way out, I talked to the activities director again. I said Mom had seemed a little overstimulated by all the people and that she seemed tired. “She had a long day,” she said. “A good day, but a long day. She did a lot of dancing today.” So that was it. Mom was just plain exhausted. I was glad to hear that she had been dancing earlier in the day, even if it meant she had the grumps for me.