Small surprises

I visited Mom last Friday, arriving about half an hour before lunch. There she was, walking around the lobby just as I walked in the door. She was wearing a James Taylor concert T-shirt. I remember that concert. I attended it with Mom and my mother-in-law many summers ago at an outdoor venue here that has since closed. Mom looked cute in that shirt. She was very affectionate, a little more than usual. We hugged hello. As we were continuing to greet each other, Mom said, in the midst of other less meaningful words, the name “Carmen.” That is the first name of one of her oldest friends. I imagine she hasn’t seen Carmen in a good five years. Later in the same visit, she said “Bino,” which is my dog’s name. The doctor who runs our support group often refers to Alzheimer’s as a failure of retrieval. The memories and knowledge are still in the brain, but the mechanism is no longer there for a person to locate the information. So Mom must have been having slightly better retrieval on this particular day.

We walked, hand in hand, to the program area, and then turned around and returned to the lobby. We sat next to each other on the couch. We held hands there, too, and Mom patted my hand – something I usually do to her. It was a motherly gesture. She said, at one point, “We should go to a movie.” This stunned me. She hasn’t said anything quite so direct in a very long time. I said there would probably be a movie showing sometime soon, and it was true – there was a movie on the activity schedule for later that day. I did tell her how much we used to enjoy going to movies. For a few years in a row, Patrick, Mom and I saw a movie on Christmas day together. The last one, I think, was “Juno,” which would have been 2007 – just a few months after Mom moved to assisted living. I recall that I took her alone to see “Dreamgirls,” which was released in 2006, and near the end of the movie, as the cast broke into song, Mom said, pretty loudly, “I am sick to death of this.” I think it’s sort of funny now, but at the time I was concerned that she was disturbing others. It was also a sign that Mom’s attention span had its limits. I wonder if it was also loud. She seems now to definitely not like being exposed to loud music or talking.

Mom also said, during our visit on the couch, “There are lots of things I’d like to do.” With this, I felt the burn of tears come up behind my eyes. This must be one of those days, I thought, when Mom is unusually with it. And it troubled me, because I never want her to be aware of all that she is missing. These things she said were fleeting, so I don’t think I have to worry very much. But it did surprise me to hear her speak in such distinctly clear sentences and to say things that suggested she was feeling unfulfilled. She was in a good mood, so maybe these were nothing more than passing thoughts that held no actual meaning for her. She was in a very good mood, in fact. At one point, she pulled my face to her and said, “I love you,” and kissed me on the lips. I thought for a moment she was mistaking me for Mr. R because the display of affection was just a little more assertive than usual. But then she sat back. I told her I love her, too.

When the lunch hour arrived, I took Mom to the program area and a volunteer and I got her set up for lunch. Sometimes she resists the instruction to sit, but I have found that if I pat the seat of the chair, she understands. I cut her open-faced turkey sandwich and watched to make sure she got started OK. And then I stepped away to chat briefly with the wife of a resident before I slipped away.

5 comments so far

  1. Gemma McLuckie on

    So funny that Bonnie still has the capacity to surprise you! And that you were reminded of some fun times — the concert, movie-going.

  2. Julia on

    I love that she was able to surprise you with affection. A gift, I’d say — such a sweet one.

  3. momsbrain on

    Gemma – I imagine she will be full of surprises for the long haul. It’s always something. 🙂

    Julia – I definitely always enjoy affection from her. And how affectionate she will be is always in question.

  4. Barry Lough on

    Hi Emily – This was such a bittersweet, heart-warming post to read. Those fleeting incidents of relative lucidness and affection are much to be treasured. I hope there are more of them.

  5. momsbrain on

    Barry, sorry for my slow response… I definitely love the affection. It is weirdly startling to have Mom seem more with it. The next time I saw her, very briefly last week, she was less talkative – I think she was tired because it was after lunch.

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