Odd girl out

At long last, I saw Mom today. Twelve days after the last time I saw her. That is a record, I am pretty sure, for the number of days between visits, in, I guess, about six years. I meant to see her last Tuesday, the day before Patrick and I left for a trip to Florida, but I ran out of time. And frankly, I just didn’t make it a priority, I guess. I am confident now that she is content and that she does not miss me when I’m not around. I’m not going to stop visiting her, though today I did get this weird feeling that my visits are less important to her than ever.

My in-laws are visiting (we drove them back north after they spent the winter in Florida), so I arrived earlier than usual to visit Mom so I could get home with lunch supplies for everyone. Mom was sitting on a couch with Mr. R. He was in the middle, with another of his girlfriends next to him, also on the couch. Mom said, “There’s Emily” when I walked toward her. I was a little worried that she wouldn’t remember me. The last time I saw her, while we were sitting in the lobby, she paused and said, to me, “Where’s Emily?” So I think her awareness of me might be slipping a little. Not today, though. But she didn’t get up to hug me. No tears or emotion upon seeing me. She was holding hands with Mr. R. Eventually, she let go and picked at her chin. She indicated that she was feeling the little hairs on her chin. So I got out my tweezers and plucked as many whiskers as I could before she started complaining about the stinging pain. While I was bent over to get a close look at her chin, she touched my cheek and told me I have nice skin.

I pulled a chair over by the couch so I was facing Mom. I indicated we could just visit and chat. She said it seemed like 20 years since she had last seen me. I said it had been many days, but not quite 20 years. She seemed to think something should happen, like there would be some activity associated with my presence. I said we could take a walk if she wanted to. Mr. R ignored me. I always greet him and sort of say I hope it’s OK to visit with everyone at the same time, and he just sort of looks at me and says nothing, and I have no idea what goes through his mind, if he recognizes me or thinks a thing about me, good or bad. Mom expressed interest in a walk. She asked Mr. R and his other girlfriend if they wanted to come along. “The only place I want to go is home,” I heard Mr. R say. I was surprised at that – both for the complete sentence and for the sentiment, because he appears content where he is. Usually, he talks quietly, too, so I can’t hear what he says to his girlfriends.

We walked toward the lobby. Mom was occasionally scratching – she is still itchy with the scabies. A nurse had called me while I was away to say those residents with the rash were getting a second treatment. While we were walking, Mom lifted her shirt and said, “These aren’t so bad,” referring to her breasts. I said, “No, they are just right.” And then she said, “My name is Bonnie,” and she laughed and laughed. I guess she tickled herself with that little joke. She also said, “You are beautiful” to me. I can’t help it; I like her compliments.

We got to the lobby, and it was empty and quiet. It was not appealing to Mom to stay there, so she and I turned around and walked back toward the program area. I suggested we go to her room to comb her hair. I noticed she had had a haircut, and I was very glad to see that. But it was a little messy so I thought I could polish her look just a tad. She was wearing just a T-shirt, and I also suggested she put on a warmer shirt. I helped her put on a beige button-down shirt I never see her wear anymore. She buttoned every other button. She also went to the bathroom without any assistance, and initiated washing her hands as well. These little activities are always a little unpredictable.

We walked back toward the center of the program area, and Mom spotted Mr. R again and walked toward him. She went to sit in a chair, but I encouraged her to sit on the couch again, next to him. I sat in my chair again. I felt sort of at a loss. Mom was glad to be back with her friends. They wouldn’t engage with me. I almost felt as if they didn’t want me around. I was tired, so my mood was probably affected by that. But I kind of got a bad feeling about future visits, like they’re all going to be like this – sharing Mom with Mr. R and feeling unwelcome, at least by him. And becoming more and more aware that Mom doesn’t really need me anymore. It’s a relief for me, of course, in many ways. But it doesn’t feel quite right.

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4 comments so far

  1. Gemma on

    Your feelings about Bonnie remind me so much of when my daughter began to rely on her friends, not me. They had inside jokes and their own phrases. Talked about people I didn’t know. Even though I believed she loved me more than them, I felt on the outside. And, as you feel about Bonnie, I acknowledged that she was happy and just fine. But somehow I wasn’t.

  2. momsbrain on

    Hi, Gemma. Though I don’t know for sure, I do imagine sometimes that I have feelings that resemble parental emotions. When Mom was attached to her girlfriends in assisted living and wanted to leave my house immediately after dinner on Easter a few years ago, it hurt my feelings even though I was so happy she had a group of friends to whom she felt that attached. Lots of unfamiliar territory for me…

  3. plettahar on

    Emily – you do have nice skin!! 🙂 and you are beautiful, and how lovely that you’re able to get that kind of feedback from your mom whenever it does come. And she continues to amuse me with her “They’re not so bad!” comments. She’s a riot.

    But I know, at least as much as I can from this side of things, how hard transitions must be. And yet perhaps you can hold on to the knowledge that even as these things are difficult for you, your mom is — as you noted — content, cared for, and safe.

  4. Emily on

    Plettahar, absolutely, her happiness is what matters. And the thing is, every visit could still bring something new. Maybe Mr. R and I will become friends… And thank you for the compliments!


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