Archive for September, 2012|Monthly archive page

Table manners

I had a good visit with Mom this week. It was about 1:30 in the afternoon by the time I arrived, but Mom was still working on her lunch. Her tray was pretty messy, with spilled juice and general disarray, plus some various pieces of food on the table. And she had a few blobs on her shirt, but it wasn’t too bad – though she should have had a bib on, frankly. Sometimes getting everyone suited up for lunch before trays arrive just doesn’t work out, I guess.

Mom was still eating, using her fingers to pick up the last bits of food on her plate. She slurped some high-calorie hot cereal out of a bowl. It looks like cream of wheat, and I guess it’s a replacement for the ice cream she was getting at every meal for awhile to add calories. She then picked up her fork to try to eat her fruit cup. I took a little video. I thought she looked good – peaceful face, relatively clean hair, and very pleasant mood. I tried to coax her to smile, but she didn’t quite get there. A male resident I didn’t recognize was sitting across from Mom, to my right. He can be heard speaking in the background. I don’t think he cared much for me. He wasn’t hostile, just apparently a little annoyed that I was at his table while he was still eating.

After she finished eating and an aide cleaned up around us, I clipped Mom’s fingernails. Their rapid growth is one suggestion to me that she is fairly healthy, outside this terrible illness, of course. I haven’t heard any more about her skin infection, and she had long sleeves on so I couldn’t see her arms. Eventually Mr. Beard came along to visit, and I gave him my chair. I put my face in front of Mom’s to give her a kiss goodbye – but I gave her a little start instead, and just pecked her on the cheek quickly and left.


The last three times I have visited Mom, she has been either asleep, or sleepy, or both. This makes me assume I am visiting at the wrong times, or she sleeps more. Probably both. When I find her asleep, I enjoy pulling up a chair and looking at her. If she stirs, I will touch her gently to offer what I hope feels like soothing human support and love.

Patrick joined me for a Sunday morning visit last weekend. Mom was lying asleep on a couch in the program area, resting on her back with her mouth open and her legs spread wide apart. We pulled up chairs and looked at her. Her face changed a little and for a moment, contorted into a grimace as she pulled her legs back together. She eventually woke up, and I rubbed her legs and her arm and talked to her and told her, “Look, Patrick is here to see you!” She talked quietly a little bit, saying nothing in particular. We didn’t stay long. Mom had a hard time keeping her eyes open.

Later that day, in our group meditation session, Patrick talked about how loving I was with Mom, how open my heart was to her. Just a second ago, I asked him if he remembered anything funny Mom said while he was there. And he said, “I only remember how beautiful you were. And how loving.” I find this so interesting. I hadn’t really given thought to it, but it occurred to me when he said this that I suppose I am at my best with my mom, even when it doesn’t feel so good to be with her. And it’s true – my heart is completely open to her. Which makes me wonder why I am not with her more often. Is such complete devotion taxing to me? Do I prefer not to be in that vulnerable place? I really don’t know. It makes me sad that Mom’s terrible illness was what it took for my heart to be unconditionally open to her. What a lesson that is for me, and how unfair it is to her. With this exploration of meditation, I am hoping I can apply that behavior and inclination to other parts of and people in my life.

More recently, I was called by Mom’s daytime nurse. An aide had noticed Mom’s wrist was swollen but no one knew why. The nurse was planning to ask the doctor permission for an X-ray. Thankfully they do it on site so Mom didn’t have to be transported. I would call later to learn the results. I went to the center that night and had trouble finding Mom. An aide finally found her in another resident’s room, sitting sideways in a chair with her legs hoisted over the side. Meanwhile, the resident of this room was sound asleep in her bed. It was about 7 p.m.

Two aides helped Mom stand up and encouraged her to walk out of the room and spend time with me. This didn’t make her particularly happy, and I hadn’t asked them to do it. Though it was a better arrangement for the sleeping resident, to be sure. As we walked, I instinctively tickled Mom’s back. She pulled away and said, “Would you quit that???!” I was a little stunned and hurt, but I just said teasingly, “I’m just trying to make you feel good, Mom.” By this time, I had seen her wrist, and I imagined that it was sore. It was puffy and bruised on the outer part of her arm. I tried to touch it, but I wasn’t very successful. She tended to hold her wrist in her hand. I suspected she had pain, and that was why she was a little testy.

Mom sat and got up a few times, and headed to a couch where another resident was already lying down. Mom sat by his feet. He is a very tall man, and he showed just slight irritation. I sat in a chair next to Mom. Mr. R was circling us and saying insulting things to Mom. I couldn’t really understand what he said, but I could detect his tone and figured I might be the cause of his dismay. His teeth are gone now, which has changed his appearance quite a bit. And he is a little more feeble, so his insults don’t have much sting. But I hovered over Mom and shielded her from him. She eventually lifted her legs over the other resident on the couch to stretch out. He gave in at this point and got up and walked away. I apologized, and he said, “It’s OK.” I rubbed Mom’s head a little bit and she closed her eyes. I decided to attend the last half-hour of support group, but before I left the program area, I spied Mr. R sit down next to Mom and just sit there quietly. He was probably glad to see me go.

The wrist X-ray was negative and the swelling is going down. We’ll never know what that injury was. But now Mom’s undergoing another round of treatment for a rash on her arm, which is a suspected case of scabies. Poor Mom can’t get a break.

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