The ever-present Mr. R

I am having a hard time mustering up the … I don’t know, strength? interest? time? … to write a full blog post about my sister Laura’s recent visit, and how we passed the time with Mom. It’s not about any problem with Laura. I just go through phases, it seems, with this blog. Sometimes I can’t wait to post. Sometimes I feel a need to post. Sometimes I just sort of avoid the whole thing. Laura and I had a very nice time together. Our visits with Mom were … OK, I guess. Not terrible. Not great. Laura visited Mom alone on her first day in town, while I was away at a conference. She had e-mailed me in advance to ask about visiting by herself. She was a little nervous. But it sounded like everything was just fine. Mr. R was around for every visit. And even though we are both glad Mom has that companionship – we certainly know it is a very good thing – we now both have experienced the resentment it also brings. Laura came from California, and yet she couldn’t get a moment alone with Mom, because Mr. R was always by her side. It’s hard to describe these emotions: Mr. R’s attention gives Mom lots of happiness. We want Mom to be happy. But his presence also deprives us of our mom’s full attention on us. That can hurt, even if her attention isn’t at all what it used to be.

On Tuesday morning, Laura and I met at the Alz center. There is a weekly musical program that I’ve heard a lot about but hadn’t yet seen for myself. Residents, staff and volunteers stood in a circle and sang songs accompanied by one of the volunteers on the piano. For a full hour, the pianist led the group in song. When I walked in, I could see Mom standing in the group, and then walking into its center, and then returning to her spot. She sat down on a couch and then stood up again. Mr. R was singing, which surprised me. Eventually, Mom sat down for good, and I went over and sat next to her. I put my arm around her. I asked her, “Is it OK if I put my arm around you?” And she said, “What are you going to do with it?” We laughed. She seemed fine having me there, but I don’t think she knew who I was. I tapped her shoulder and sang along with the songs when I knew the words. Laura arrived a little later with a cookie for Mom. A nurse had recently given Mom a jelly sandwich for her morning snack. Then she ate the cookie. When the singing stopped, I gave Mr. R his jelly sandwich, which I had been holding for him. He handed it to Mom, and she ate half of it. Her appetite is just fine. She eventually got sleepy.

Laura watched the group sing. Mom dozed off.

The next day, we found Mom and Mr. R in the lobby, on a couch. We pulled up chairs and sat across from them to chat. Mom was really cheerful, which was nice for Laura. On her previous two visits, Mom had seemed very tired. Laura liked bringing Mom treats. And Mom liked these treats. She quickly ate the cookie that Laura had brought.

Mom eats a cookie on the lobby couch. Those are her socks on the couch next to her. Mr. R's arm and leg are visible on the right.

Mr. R was not happy. He soon began making comments generally expressing his dissatisfaction with this turn of events. He said he had to go somewhere, and Mom had to go with him. He said he had to get something over there. Things like this. They didn’t make complete sense, but it was clear he wanted to be somewhere else, without us. He was a little snippy with Mom. She was completely oblivious to his bad mood. Eventually, she was convinced to go along with him. They got up and started walking. Laura and I continued to sit there, wondering what would happen when they returned. A staff member came by and saw us like that, facing an empty couch, and she went down the hall and rounded up Mom and Mr. R and brought them back to the couch. This didn’t last long. We all got up to walk toward the program area. When we got there, I suggested we all sit down together somewhere. “Go to hell,” said Mr. R. I said, “Why don’t we sit down?” and he said, “Sit on your ass.” What a total grump he was. I turned my attention away from him and stopped to chat with another resident. Laura was observing Mom and Mr. R, who was increasingly upset. He grew just nasty enough that staff members separated him from Mom, with Laura’s encouragement. Laura, Mom and I went into Mom’s room while a staff member stayed with Mr. R on a couch. Here, Laura and I were happy to have some alone time with Mom. And within minutes – I am not exaggerating – Mom was asleep.

Mom drifted off almost immediately after she was separated from Mr. R.

We were glad to see her get the opportunity for some rest, but it was also an unsatisfying visit. When we came out of Mom’s room, Mr. R said, “There’s two of them, and they just beat the crap out of her.” So it was clear he was mad at us and not at Mom. As we walked away, we saw him get up and go into Mom’s room. A staff member quickly intervened. And we just left. Later that evening, we attended support group. Before the meeting, we stopped in the program area to see how everything was going. Mom and Mr. R were walking around. Mr. R greeted us in a fairly friendly way. A staff member came over to take Mr. R away when he saw us, but we said that it was OK, that we were just popping in. Plus, all seemed to be forgotten, as is typically the case when Mr. R gets grumpy. Laura, who was leaving early the next morning, got something important this time: a chance to hug Mom goodbye.

6 comments so far

  1. Pam on

    I think it’s natural to sometimes feel like blogging, and other times not. I’m glad you had a good visit with Laura and your mom.

  2. JudyDearing on

    Oh my gosh! I can’t even imagine how I might handle that.

  3. Kelly on

    Even in those moments your mom may not recognize you but she does absolutely recognize your love…always.

  4. momsbrain on

    Pam: Thanks! I suppose I am not unusual. I just don’t like to neglect my blog.

    Judy: I am getting used to it, but I continue to resent Mr. R. I just can’t help it. It doesn’t mean I’m going to do anything about it. But being on borrowed time with Mom, I’m not really happy about it. And the thing is, her mood is so stable now that even if she didn’t have him, she would probably be happy.

    Kelly: Thank you – I think Mom does know I am always on her side when I’m with her.

  5. Jeff on

    I’m glad that I’ve never encountered that much grumpiness from him. I’m not sure how I’d react.

  6. momsbrain on

    Jeff: Yeah, it’s a total bummer. I tend to be passive when it happens. There’s not much we can do. I think getting out of his line of sight is the most effective thing to do – if you ever do encounter it.

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