Song and sympathy

During my last visit with Mom, on Thursday of last week, she got a song stuck in her head. Interesting that that can happen to someone with almost zero short-term memory. We were sitting in the lobby, where there is always a radio playing quietly on top of a decorative chest against a wall. The song “King of the Road” came on. You know, it’s that song with the line: “I ain’t got no cigarettes.” That is the only line I know, besides “King of the Road.” Mom started humming along with it, and sang the words “King of the Road.” And a little later, as we walked down the hall back toward the program area, she started humming the tune again, and we both sang together, “King of the Road.”

On this day, I arrived after lunch, taking advantage of being in the neighborhood after I got a haircut. I couldn’t find Mom in the program area or her room. An aide said she had last been in the lobby. I went back to the lobby but she wasn’t there. I went over to the skilled nursing area, and there Mom was, sitting in a chair against the wall, just hanging out. Picking her chin. When she saw me, she stood up and reached out to hug me. I sat down next to her briefly and then we decided to take a walk. We got as far as the lobby before she was ready to sit.

During our visit on the lobby couch, the medical director of the center came out of a back room. He came right over to say hello to me and to tell me that the wife of our most regular of regular support-group members had died two days earlier. Her whole family (six children) had been to support group the night before, a session I missed because I had a massage scheduled. Usually, he attended with only his oldest daughter. The doctor said the husband was doing as well as could be expected. That despite his occasional emotional discussions of his wife during meetings, he had been stoic when talking about his wife after her death, and held up well during the meeting. I was stunned to hear the news in some respects, though I had known since Mom moved in that this particular resident’s disease was very advanced. I didn’t ask for any details of her final days and how it happened. But I was full of sadness for her husband, who has been wholly devoted to his wife for the entirety of their marriage – 62 years – and who still visited her every day during the close to three years she spent at the Alz center. Often, her daughter was very matter-of-fact in discussing her mother’s illness at support group, but I’ll never forget a meeting back in the fall, when she started to talk during the group meeting and just stopped and said, “I miss my mother.” And quietly cried.

Mom sat next to me while the doctor told me this news and we briefly discussed the funeral arrangements. I said I wouldn’t be able to go to visiting hours because I had a weekend business trip so I would send a card. When we were finished talking, Mom gave the doctor a cheeky grin and the doctor shook her hand after shaking mine. Mom had no clue what we had been talking about. Which was the way we both wanted it. I also decided not to tell Mom I would be going out of town. I used to always tell her when I’d be away, for some reason. I didn’t see any point in telling her this time just in case it made her anxious, and mostly because she wouldn’t remember anyway. And for the first time, while traveling, I didn’t even think about buying her a little giftie from the trip. I used to try to do that – bring chocolates, or a new pen, or a little stuffed animal. It’s funny to think about it now, because I tend to tell friends and family that Mom doesn’t need any gifts when they ask me what she might want. And yet, I felt that same compulsion at times to bring her something, as if it would show to her that I thought of her while I was away. To be honest, on this trip, I didn’t dwell on her much at all. Admitting that is one of those things that can make a daughter feel guilty. But I also think I am due this relief of worry – because I have worried a lot about her, and I know now that she is in excellent hands.

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1 comment so far

  1. […] under: Elsewhere, Music | Tags: history, internet fun, music (other) My friend Ethel just finished a post that mentioned how this song, Roger Miller’s “King of the Road,” got stuck in her mom’s […]


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