11:50 a.m. Thursday, November 26. It would be a quiet holiday. Just me and Mom at the Actors Home for their annual Thanksgiving Day lunch.
I was nervous about seeing her. A little over four weeks had elapsed since her TIAs or mini strokes. I was afraid to see her further altered, especially after the dreams I’ve been having: dreams of Mom dying. I’d wake up thinking, “It would be a blessing if she went in her sleep,” just as she used to say. After the momentary relief and positive self-talk, the anxiety and sadness would creep in. My heart skipped a few beats.
When I arrived, her aide “L” said she wasn’t ready yet. I waited and spoke with a couple of the nurses and aides; we wished each other a Happy Thanksgiving. They thanked me for coming.
I saw one of the family members I know with her Mom. She was wearing a royal blue sweater and a silver brooch, her snowy hair swirled in a meringue-y bun.
“You look beautiful!” she said to her mother. She thanked the aide for dressing her so nicely, and she and her family walked toward the elevator.
L wheeled Mom out and said with his usual beaming smile, “Here she is!”
“Hi, Mom, you look so pretty in pink.” She was wearing her pink and beige print dress with a pale pink sweater.
“Thank you, L,” I said. “Why don’t you come with us to lunch?”
“I wish I could,” he said.
I was afraid Mom might freak out as she sometimes does in crowds, and away from her comfort zone. I made a mental note not to reserve a spot for us at the Christmas party this year. Last year she behaved very badly, so we ended up leaving early. I was hurt and disappointed.
Don’t be negative, don’t be negative, Erica. Take a deep breath.
We arrived on the first floor and I wheeled her into the lunch room. Tables were decorated with a trio of autumn-colored balloons tied to a paperweight of some kind. A paper “HAPPY THANKSGIVING’ sign and several paper cornucopias decorated the walls. Rod Stewart singing “The Nearness of You” piped through the speakers.
A friendly bespectacled man in a polo shirt with a clipboard asked our names and escorted us to a table near the window—sun streaming in, you could feel the heat.
“It’s warm today, Mom, about 62 degrees,” I said.
“Really?” she said, smiling.
“Should we get our own drinks?” I asked one of the women holding a pitcher of cider.
“No, someone will take your order,” she said.
“Okay, thank you.”
“Mom, do you recognize this song?”
“Yes,” she said, smiling even more brightly.
“It’s Rod Stewart.”
“He’s a rock singer, but he sings standards too.”
“Mmm,” she said.
“Would you like some apple cider?” a young woman asked us.
“No, thank you,” said Mom.
“What do you want?”
“Ginger ale for her, and coke for me and some water,” I said. “Thank you.”
“I can feel the heat,” she said, closing her eyes.
“Yes, like a spring day.”
The next song that came on was “Tijuana Taxi” by Herb Alpert. Wow, that brought back memories of Jackson Heights. Mom and Dad had that album when my brother and I were kids.
“Mom, Tijuana Taxi!” I said.
“Remember, Herb Alpert? We had the album.”
“Oh, we did?”
I don’t think she remembered, but she smiled anyway. If only I had the album cover.
The nice man with the clipboard was going table to table with a camera.
“May I take your picture?” he said.
“Sure, but first would you take one on my phone first? It’s been ages since we’ve taken a picture together.”
I handed him my iPhone and showed him how. He already knew.
“Thank you,” I said.
“You’re welcome.” He took a photo of us with his camera. I wonder where the photos would be displayed.
I need the memories.
Mom stared at her plate.
“Aren’t you hungry?” I said.
“Yes, I have plenty.”
She scooped up some turkey and stuffing with a soup spoon.
“Would you like me to help you?” I said, bringing a forkful of food to her lips.
“No, this is easier.” She preferred the spoon.
I wasn’t that hungry either.
At about 1:30 I asked Mom if she wanted to go back to her room.
“No, I like it here. I like the sun.”
“Okay, we’ll stay awhile longer.”
And I was so afraid she’d make a scene or be unhappy. It seems I was the anxious one.
Rod Stewart started singing “S’Marvelous” over the loud speakers.
“Mom, you know that one.”
I started to sing along.
“Yes, I do,” she said.