Sent packing

Mom is definitely content and easygoing these days. No doubt about it. But she also shows her willful side from time to time. It’s kind of funny, as long as those of us on the receiving end don’t take anything personally that she says or does.

Mom’s longtime friend, Ed, was passing through the city yesterday. He visits with Mom just about anytime he is in Columbus, and often takes her out somewhere. He called late Sunday morning to let me know he wanted to pick up Mom and take her out for coffee or something. The timing was good – often, I have conflicts when Ed is in town – so I invited myself to come along so I could see Ed for the first time in a long time. We agreed to meet in the parking lot of the Alz center. As I was getting ready, I began to worry about a few things: We were picking Mom up after lunch. Would she have food on her clothes? Would Mr. R be around? And, perhaps most important, would the new shoes I bought her be on her feet? So I went over to the center a little early.

I spotted Mom with Mr. R on the couch near her room. Interestingly, she had the same outfit on that she has had on two other days I visited in the past week. I don’t know if that’s her idea or someone else’s. After seeing where she was, I went over to the nursing station to see if Mom’s shoes might be there, where I left them before the failed dermatology appointment. They weren’t there. While I was standing there, Mom came over to me and hugged me. “I love you,” she said. It was so sweet. I took her to her room and looked high and low for signs of any shoes at all. I found the pink Crocs put away in a bin, but one was completely useless, missing two straps. I found a single Teva-like sandal in the closet. Even the leather slippers that had been there a week ago were gone. Also missing were her blue Crocs and the more sturdy Mary Jane-style slip-on shoes Mom wore years ago, before she got into the Crocs. And the new Croc knockoffs I had just brought in were gone, too.

We went back out to the program area, and I learned that Mom had not eaten lunch yet. It was about 12:30. Mr. R had refused his lunch, which had confused Mom. The aides pointed her toward her chair and she sat down and started to eat. I pulled up a chair next to her and watched her eat, and helped a little, cutting her turkey. At 12:45, I left Mom and went to the parking lot to look for Ed and another friend he had been traveling with. I explained that Mom had no shoes and therefore really couldn’t go to a restaurant or coffee shop. We agreed to visit in the center and possibly go outside to the courtyard. The three of us pulled up chairs, surrounding Mom and Mr. R on the couch. We chatted a little bit with Mom, and then the three of us tended to chat with each other while Mom and Mr. R sat there – a definite hazard of visiting with someone who cannot follow a conversation. At one point, I admired Mom’s hair. Mom asked Ed about his hair. His friend said Mom had nice hair. “I have a chair?” Mom said. She doesn’t always hear well.

We eventually took a little walk, and then went outside, walked along the little path there, and sat for awhile. It was unseasonably warm and sort of breezy. At one point when the wind blew, Mom said, “Oh, that was nice.” I enjoyed seeing her take some pleasure from the nice day. Fairly soon, however, Mom said, “I’m ready to go,” or something along those lines. She stood up with Mr. R. We asked if she wanted to go inside, and she said yes. We had to wait for someone to let us in, and then we let Mom and Mr. R lead the way. We followed them to one side of the program area. Then Mom said, “I’m going to go over here,” and she took Mr. R’s hand and walked away from us rather purposefully. I could tell it was her way of saying, “I’m ready to not have company anymore.” Ed, his friend and I agreed we were ready to leave, too. Ed managed to shake Mom’s hand and Mr. R’s hand. I just waved and before I had even put my hand down, Mom had turned her back on me and headed toward her usual couch.

It was a new phenomenon, to have Mom kick me out. She wasn’t unkind about it at all, and she didn’t seem particularly agitated. She was just ready to return to what she knows – peaceful sitting, holding hands with Mr. R, familiar surroundings, her safe place. I’m frankly glad that she is able to take care of herself in that way, to plainly state what she wants and do what she needs to do to be at her very most comfortable self. I wish I were better at that myself.

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6 comments so far

  1. Pat White on

    Hi Emily,
    When I was reading about your mom’s shoes missing, I felt so uncomfortable for you, realizing you have provided several pair for her and their not being available when really needed. Did the aides at the center make an effort on your behalf?
    I am glad that you could make the best of the situation and had your mom’s friend and his friend to come inside the center and you all could visit your mom in the courtyard. I could very well understand how it was, your mom not being able to participate in the conversation.
    I also wish I could feel more okay about voicing my preferences.

  2. momsbrain on

    Hi, Pat-I have never bothered the staff too much with the shoe issue. I know they’re there somewhere. I just ordered two new pairs of Crocs and will just keep one pair at home with me or something like that. So much of the time, it simply doesn’t matter if she’s not wearing shoes. Of all the ones that were lost, her slippers were the nicest of all, so I’m a little bummed about that. Heck, the next time I go back, they will probably be back in her closet. 🙂

  3. margaret massey on

    I loved this:

    “I’m frankly glad that she is able to take care of herself in that way, to plainly state what she wants and do what she needs to do to be at her very most comfortable self. I wish I were better at that myself.”

    How cool. I’m with you on the latter, too.

    meg

  4. momsbrain on

    Hi, Meg-thank you for your comment! I like learning lessons from Mom, even under these circumstances…

  5. Jennifer Jayhawk on

    Is your Mom leaving shoes random places or is it something of a free for all? Last week GMA had a week long series on Alzheimer’s. I then heard Maria Shriver on XM speak about her Dad. It was interesting because she spoke about how a daughter reacts differently then a son to their parent suffering from Alzheimer’s.
    Glad you Mom can still recognize you and tell you she loves you.

  6. momsbrain on

    I think Mom has lost interest in wearing shoes and probably took them off somewhere and then someone else might have put them on. Or, as the medical director of the center says, some residents go “shopping” in other people’s rooms. It is part of the deal of living there that things might go missing. But they are in there somewhere.

    I feel lucky that Mom tells me she loves me – she didn’t do that much as I was growing up (that’s just how our family was…).


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