Archive for January 19th, 2011|Daily archive page

All to myself

I visited Mom on MLK Day, a day off for me. Last year, I had visited on this same day and found a lot of college volunteers doing community service by visiting dementia patients. I was impressed by those students and thanked them personally. I waited until later in the day this time, hoping to miss the volunteers. I thought that would increase my chances of having alone time with Mom. If I have to share her with Mr. R, I at least wanted to avoid sharing her with volunteers, as well. That is my selfish way of thinking about visits these days.

I walked into the lobby and there Mom was, by herself, walking toward me. I went right up to her and gave her a big hug and told her I was so glad to see her. And I was so glad she was alone. I signed in and took off my coat, and she took my hand and we started walking. We went toward the skilled care wing, stopped at the nursing station there and turned around. We went back to the lobby, and Mom complained about being tired. We sat on a couch and just sprawled out and hung out there for awhile. I noticed her fingernails were quite long and ragged, so I trimmed them. I offered to pluck the whiskers from her chin. She didn’t know what I was saying I was going to do. So I pulled one, and she winced. I pulled another, and she jumped. So I stopped. No need to cause her any pain at all. So her chin will be hairy forever more.

An aide walked by and Mom said to him, “I’m hungry.” He briefly acknowledged her and said he would be back. I offered to get a root beer to share and she liked the idea, even though I don’t think she knows what root beer is. I got a can from the vending machine. As I got back to the couch, the aide stopped by and handed Mom a baggie with two cookies in it. Ah-ha – it was snack time, and Mom knew it. Funny how she hardly knows a damn thing but she knows when she sees this aide in the afternoon, it’s snack time. She ate the cookies with some enthusiasm. In the past, she might have offered me a bite. She didn’t this time. Which was completely fine, of course. I didn’t want a bite. But it’s interesting how her focus has changed in that way, to herself. I sipped the root beer. When she was done with her cookies, I offered her a drink. She examined the can and tentatively held it close to her mouth. I told her to point the hole toward her mouth and tip it. She was able to follow that instruction. She took long drinks. “Mm, that’s good,” she said. She mostly drinks water and milk these days, so I imagine a cold, sweet drink was very tasty. She took one last drink and spilled a little on her shirt. She laughed.

She seemed ready to walk again, so we took a trip toward the program area. We ran into Mr. R there, sitting alone in a chair. I pulled up a chair so Mom could sit near him, assuming that’s what she would want to do. She leaned over and talked to him, very close to his face. Then an interesting thing happened. A woman in the same lounge area was sitting on a couch – she was sitting on a low spot where a cushion was missing. That cushion was lying on the floor. She stood up and said, “These are mine, I’ll take them.” She started trying to collect the other two cushions to carry them away. Mr. R went over to her to help her – though he was trying to put them back onto the couch. Mom started walking away, and I followed. I liked this turn of events.

We went through the lobby and over to the skilled area again. I noticed whenever we transitioned from carpet to wood floors and back again, Mom would lift her foot very high as if to step over a barrier. She also said, “These shoes aren’t very good.” She was wearing only socks. I think her feet must ache from all the walking she does. In the skilled area, we passed a room in which a resident was sitting in a wheelchair. I recognized him from earlier days, when he spent time in the program area. “I want a cigarette so fucking bad I can’t see straight!” he shouted after we passed. Mom popped her head into a room and said hello to a woman sitting alone. Then we headed back to the lobby. I needed to get going to stay on schedule, to cook dinner and then get to a class at my gym. It is so uncommon for me to stay longer than expected at the Alz center. I suggested to Mom that she might like sitting on the couch to watch a Lucille Ball DVD with other residents gathered in the lobby. But she got a little confused when I tried to say goodbye. I hugged her and pointed her toward the couch and slipped away. I looked back and saw her standing next to the couch. I imagine she was momentarily confused, but that it passed quickly. But it still gave me a pang to think she might be aware that I was gone.

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