Default setting: worried

When I arrived at the Alz center Tuesday about half an hour before lunch, the receptionist was handing out cookies to guests and staff members. And perhaps residents, I don’t know. She asked me if I wanted one, and I said yes, and she gave me two. They were mushy chocolate chip cookies, still warm. I ate half of one and put the little cookie envelope in my purse. I walked back to the program area, and I saw Mom walking around with dog/cat in her hand. She was headed in one direction, and then she turned around and started walking toward me. And I walked toward her, waving. And she said, “It’s another miracle.” And we hugged.

We sat down for a little while at a table and played with dog/cat. Mom said she was feeling worried, but she didn’t know why. I told her I didn’t think she has anything to worry about these days – that she has everything she needs right there with her, and that I would take care of anything she didn’t have. She touched her chin a lot, and she would repeat that she was feeling worried. She said I looked worried. And I probably did, because I don’t want her to worry.

She said a few interesting things: “This is just my position, to be worried all the time.” And later, to me, “You’re a perfect person.” I assured her I am not perfect, but that I do my best. I told her she was pretty close to perfect herself.

We walked to the lobby and sat on a couch. I shared the rest of my partly eaten cookie with Mom. She got a little chocolate on her cheek, which I didn’t manage to clean off until a little while later, when the staff passed out the bibs for lunch. This center has virtually no public trash cans around – for safety and to avoid messes, I’m sure – so I didn’t go to the effort to use a tissue to clean off her face knowing that I’d either have to hold onto the tissue or ask someone for a restroom key to get access to a trash can. A small inconvenience – but I figured not a soul would notice the chocolate on Mom’s cheek. And I was right.

While we were sitting there, Mom continued to pick at her chin and I offered to pluck her facial hairs. She tilted her head back and I plucked away. There weren’t too many – I’m sort of staying on top of the growth now. I had been bending over sort of awkwardly, and when I was finished, I sat down with a heavy sigh. “Just another thing to do,” she said. I assured her it was no big deal.

It was an interesting visit – she seemed pretty observant of my behavior and tuned into it, and she was definitely on edge about something herself. I probably told her six or seven times over the 45 minutes that I was there that her life is set up now so that she can be free of worry. She worried a lot before her illness. She had lots of anxiety, about all sorts of things. I have lots of anxiety, about all sorts of things. But I try not to let my anxiety about her show when I am with her.

While we were back in the program area waiting for Mom’s lunch tray, I heard a little commotion in the hallway. A male resident was naked, a nurse said, and he had gone to the bathroom. An aide put a gown on him and took him toward a shower room. On his way to that room, the resident kicked a door. I gave Mom her tray and hoped she remained unaware of the angry resident. I kissed her goodbye.

Because of the bathroom accident, the door from the program area to the lobby was closed and locked, so I had to wait for someone to let me out. And this is an example of my useless anxiety: I feel guilty whenever a staff member has to let me out. Yet those are the rules – I am not allowed to know the codes to open any exit doors. No one knows them but staff. And yet there I stand, worrying that they will think I am a bad family member because I pick an inopportune time to leave – the same time that someone has to clean up a public pile of poop. I’ve got to get over this, I think. Mom is presumably going to be living at this place for a fairly long time.

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