(photo: glasseyes view)
Raymond looked different than the last time I saw him: hair shaved close to the scalp, different glasses, belt cinched tighter around his waist. He looked paler somehow.
I saw Mom in the day room. She said, “It’s been a long time. Where have you been?”
“I wasn’t feeling well one weekend, and last weekend I had a lot to do,” I said.
“Oh. Let’s go to the room,” she said.
I wheeled her to her room.
I was nervous about seeing her on Saturday. Our last visit had been on Thanksgiving, and she was in good spirits. I wanted to hold onto that, thinking it might go away.
“I brought you coffee and cookies and Christmas presents,” I said.
“Oh, and to think we missed Christmas,” she said, frowning.
“We didn’t miss it. It’s next week. I’ll come by on Wednesday after work and bring you the chocolate chip cookies.”
“That would be great,” she said.
“Do you want to open your presents?”
“Not right now,” she said. “Let’s go for a walk.”
We took a spin around the floor, passing Raymond, as we usually do. He’s an avid walker of the halls.
“Hi,” he said to me.
After our spin, we returned to Mom’s room. I did some channel surfing and stopped on AMC. They were running a Christmas movie marathon; the original Miracle on 34th Street was on.
“I always liked this one,” I said.
“Me too. But I haven’t seen any Christmas movies.”
“What about Christmas in Connecticut? That was on last week.”
“Oh, yes, I saw that,” she said, smiling.
“I liked that one.”
Raymond shuffled into Mom’s room.
“Hi,” he said.
“He’s always coming into my room. I don’t want him in here,” Mom said.
“He doesn’t mean anything by it. I don’t think he knows where he’s going.”
“I don’t care. I don’t like it,” she said.
“Raymond, let’s go this way,” I said, leading him out of her room towards the nurses’ station.
Mom and I went for another spin.
We returned to her room and drank coffee together. A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott was on.
“I never saw this one,” she said.
“Me neither, but I heard it was good.”
“You know what I really need?” she said.
“A bra. The ones they gave me are too big and I hate them. I need a Lasserette.”
“Oh, let me think.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Raymond.
“Vassarette!” she says. “Size 36B, with some padding.”
I never heard of Vassarette bras.
Raymond doesn’t say anything and heads straight to Hannah’s bed. Hannah is Mom’s roommate; she has the bed closer to the door.
“Vassarette? What color?” I said.
“Okay, I’ll look for one.”
“Thank you,” she said.
Raymond lies down on his side, eyes closed, and hands tucked under his head in prayer position on Hannah’s bed.
“Mom,” I said, gesturing to Raymond.
“What is he doing? Get him out of here.”
I go out to the nurses’ station to speak to Deirdre, the second shift nurse on duty.
“Deirdre, you’ve got to see this,” I said.
“What?” she says, smiling.
“Oh, no,” she said, looking at him on the bed.
She nudged him gently. “Raymond, you have to get up. This isn’t your room.”
“Huh?” he said, like a toddler being woken from a nap.
“Come on, let’s go.”
“Oh,” he said.
Deirdre led him out gently by one arm.
Mom and I went around the floor one more time. When we returned, guess who was lying on the bed?
I told Deirdre.
She said, smiling, “He’s like George Washington. He sleeps in everyone’s bed.”
*Pseudonyms have been used for staff and residents at the Actors Home.