Truth or Dare

I haven’t spoken to Mom since Christmas — bad daughter.  Yes, I am. I haven’t had the energy or the desire, I suppose, and I haven’t wanted to hear her rebukes, such as, “You haven’t come to see me in so long!”

When Lorin and I lived in New Jersey, I saw her once or week or at least biweekly. Now it’s once a month. I haven’t got time for more pain, and I’m living far away.

A nurse called me from the Actors Home and asked if I could calm her down since she was ranting about being poisoned, again.

This is nothing new.

She shrieked into the phone, “”When are you going to get me out of here? I’m being poisoned.” Then, “Where have you been?” and “You only think about yourself, or dear ole Daddio.”

That pulled the trigger.

“Mom, I have to tell you something.”

“What?”

“Lorin was killed in a car accident. That’s why I haven’t been calling or coming around.”

“Oh no! Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because I didn’t want to upset you, but it’s time that you know.”

She started to cry or it sounded like crying. “I’m so sorry.”

It felt good to tell her the truth. I have spared her so many truths, but I am tired of lying to her, even if she has Alzheimer’s.  I have no more time for lies and obfuscations.

“And I’ve moved out of state,” I said.

“What? Why?”

“Because I can’t bear to be in New York since Lorin died.”

“But you dumped me here and now I’m alone in this God-forsaken place! Where are you?”

“I’m living in Savannah, Georgia.”

That didn’t seem to register. Her brain must now have been on overload or “tilt.”

“You have to get me out of here. Take me to Grandpa’s house . . . anywhere.”

“Mom, Grandpa is dead. You can’t go there.”

“There’s a room for me there.”

“I don’t think so, Mom.”

More crying.

“I’m coming to see you on Saturday,” I said.

“But that’s not soon enough. You have to get me out now.”

“It’s in three days. Can I bring you anything – soap?”

“Yes, please bring me the lavendar soap. They took that away from me.  And someone scribbled all over my Wuthering Heights. It must have been Lorin.”

“Lorin wouldn’t scribble in your books.”

“Did you bury him?”

“He was cremated.”

“Oh. I’m so so sorry. I’ll pray for you.”

“Thank you. Try to relax. I’ll be there soon.”

“Okay. Jack took me to confession.”

“Oh, good.”

“He prayed with me.”

“I’m glad.”

“I have so many sins. How will I ever be forgiven?”

“It’s okay, Mom.”

More crying. The phone and she sounded far away. I waited for a while, then hung up.

No more lies.

 

 

Yardley English Lavender

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(google)

A bar of soap isn’t just a bar of soap.

For example, there’s Yardley English Lavender–Mom’s favorite.

Last week she said, “I meant to tell you to get me more soap.”

I went into her bathroom and saw three bars of soap–not whole, maybe two-thirds used–but nevertheless, Yardley English Lavender.

“Mom, you have soap,” I said from the bathroom.

“Really?”

“Yes, want to see?” I said.

“Okay,” she said, wheeling into the bathroom. She turned on the faucet and started to wash her face and hands.

“Smell it,” I said, handing her the bar. She sniffed it.

“Okay, thank goodness. Yes, that’s it.”

Her aide Christina* came in the room later and said, “I wanted to ask you to bring your mom more soap.”

“But she has three bars in the bathroom,” I said.

“Yes, but she tells me, ‘That’s not soap.’ She likes the big bars,” she said.

“Okay, I’ll bring some next time.”

Christina nodded and smiled.

Before I left, I said to Mom, “Remember, you have soap. There are three bars in the bathroom.”

“Okay,” she said.

I had a feeling this was not the end of the Soap Saga, so I went to CVS and bought three “real” bars of Yardley English Lavender.

Last night after work I stopped by to visit Mom.

I saw the night nurse Jared* on my way to her room and said, “I’m bringing her some soap.”

“Ah, the English soap,” he said, smiling.

“Yes, she loves it.”

It was 7:30, and Mom was already in bed.

“Do you want to watch some TV?” I asked.

“No, I’m sleepy,” she said.

“I’ll put your soap right her next to you, okay?” I placed the bars of soap on the rolling table next to her bed.

“Yes, that’ll be fine. You didn’t have to come today to bring it.”

“No, I wanted to. I didn’t want you to have to wait.”

“Thank you, dear.”

I kissed her on the forehead and said, “good night.”

“Good night, dear.”

I told Jared, “She was very sleepy, so I put the soap by her bed.”

He said, “You didn’t have to come all this way to just to bring her soap. I could have picked some up at Walgreens.”

“It’s okay,” I said.

Sometimes soap isn’t just soap.

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(google)

*Pseudonyms used for staff members at Actor’s Home.

 

 

 

Sundowning

Mom at party(Mom in her green polka dot dress)

“Who did your hair?” she said.

“My hair stylist,” I said.

“I don’t like it. The girls are wearing it long these days.”

I removed my headband, as if that would make a difference.

“You’ve gained so much weight,” she said, scrunching up her face.

“I’m sorry my appearance offends you,” I said.

“Oh, everything’s all wrong. Where are my clothes? The clothes in the closet don’t belong to me!” she said, hyperventilating. “What happened to Grandpa’s house?”

“What do you mean? Grandpa in Wisconsin?”

“No, when he lived with Rony.”

“Mom, Grandpa’s been dead for years,” I said.

“But what about my sister? Can’t I go there?”

“Mom, Rony is dead.”

“What?” she said, her face terrified in disbelief.

“She died several years ago. She had a heart condition.”

“I know she had a heart condition, but I didn’t know she died,” she said.

“Yes, she died.”

“Where have you been? You’ve been gone for so long!”

“Mom, I was here two weeks ago.”

“No, you weren’t!”

“Yes, I was. I brought you the bras you asked for.” I pulled them out of a tote bag.

“No, these are all wrong—they’re too big.”

“I got them too big because you said the other ones shrunk in the wash.”

“Oh, they’re all wrong.”

“Okay, Mom, I think I’ll go now. I don’t need this.”

“I’m sorry. I’ll try to be quiet,” she said.

“You don’t have to be quiet. Just don’t yell at me.”

“But why were you gone so long?”

“I was here two weeks ago. My office moved—I get home at 7:30 at night. I can only see you on weekends.”

She made a face.

“Where have you been? I’m being poisoned here. The air, the fumes,” she said.

“Is it hot in here?” I said.

“Yes, I think so.”

I asked James the nurse if he could turn on the air conditioning in her room.

“I’m so confused. I didn’t think I’d be here forever. Where did I used to live? They’re killing me here.”

“At Schuyler House, in the Bronx.”

“Schuyler House?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t remember that place. I didn’t think I’d be here forever.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“What will become of me? Where will I go?”

“I don’t know, Mom. Rick has the house in Elmira. You’ve seen it.”

“I know that. Stop humoring me,” she said, ramming her wheelchair into the side of her bed frame.

“Dan still lives in the house, and he lives near Greg.”

Dan is my Aunt Rony’s husband; Greg is my cousin.

“Oh, that’s good. He always took care of himself,” Mom said.

“He just turned 90, I think. He goes swimming at the YMCA every day.”

“Yes, he always took care of himself. I’m happy to hear this.”

“Make sure you tell him about my performances at the Actors Home. I want them to know where I am.”

“Which performances?”

“I’m doing Anastasia,” she said.

“Okay, I’ll tell him.”

“Do you want to go for a spin?” I said.

“Yes,” she said, hyperventilating.

“Do you want something to calm you down?”

“Yes, I have some valium somewhere.”

“In the medicine cabinet?” I said.

“Yes, I think so.”

“You can take some after dinner,” I said.

“Okay.”

I told the nurse James* that Mom was having a hard time.

“Can Mom get a sedative?” I asked.

“It’s sundowning,” James said. “It happens around this time.”

It was about 4:30 p.m.

“Let’s go into the garden,” James said. “Come on, Katherine.”

Mom laughed.

I wheeled her out into the garden, James opening the door to the outside world.

“Mom, do you want your coffee?” I said.

“Yes, please.”

“I’ll bring it,” James said.

“And can you bring me a glass of water?” I said.

“Sure,” he said.

“It was about time I had a nervous breakdown,” Mom said, laughing. “Why don’t they show Lust for Life? They keep having it up on the bill.”

“I don’t know, Mom.”

“Would you lay out some clothes for me for tomorrow? I can’t find the polka dot dress I love so much.”

“What color was it?” I said.

“Green polka dots and white background.”

“I’ll try to find it or I’ll get you another,” I said.

I’m watching Terms of Endearment. I never liked it when I was younger, but I do now. I never appreciated the relationship between the mother (Shirley MacLaine) and daughter (Debra Winger), the closeness between them.

I guess I didn’t have that type of relationship with my mom, but it was still a relationship. So much of the time I felt like I was her mother, her nurse, her therapist. Sometimes I think she resented me for it. But it’s who I was schooled to be—the caretaker.

I know I can’t fix Mom. I can’t make her not have Alzheimer’s. I can’t make her remember her sister died or she no longer has a house to live in. I do what I can.

*Note: pseudonym used.

If Mama Was Married

On Saturday I saw Mom for a pre-Mother’s Day visit. I brought her cookies, her favorite Yardley English Lavender soap, a card and a bouquet of peach-yellow roses.

She had some very exciting news to impart.

“I had a proposal of marriage,” she said.

“Wow. Really? From whom?”

“A younger man,” she said, flushing with excitement.

“Oh boy. Does he live here?”

“I don’t think so. Anyway, it’s all over now.”

“So you said ‘no’?”

“Yes, it was silly,” she said, still blushing.

“That’s very exciting, Mom. What does he look like?”

“Much younger, and very handsome. Bald.”

“Oh, my.”

We took a spin up and down the halls and into the day room.

“Make sure to point him out to me if you see him,” I said.

“Okay, but I don’t think he’s here anymore.”

I spotted some new male residents in her unit–one was bald and smiling, strapped into his wheelchair. I wondered if that was her new beau.

One of the aides said, “Hi, Katherine. So I heard you’re getting married.”

Mom smiled. “Isn’t it exciting?” I said to the aide.

We returned to her room and watched part of The Hustler on Turner Classic Movies and had coffee and cookies.

“You know what else?” she said, giddily. “He washed my face.”

“Isn’t that nice.”

“He said, ‘I wanted to see if you were wearing any makeup because you look so
young.’ ” She was giggling as she said this.

“And you weren’t wearing makeup.”

“No. I still can’t believe it,” she said.

I started to think she might be talking about her boyfriend from back in Milwaukee, the blond German one that she was so crazy about. I wasn’t sure, though.

It doesn’t matter. She was happy, ebullient, feeling cherished and attractive again. What could be wrong with that? And wouldn’t it be swell if Mama got married?

Raymond Sleeps Around

wandering man

(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.

“Hi, Raymond.”

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.”

“Me too.”

Raymond shuffled into Mom’s room.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hi, Raymond.”

“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.

“What?”

“A bra. The ones they gave me are too big and I hate them. I need a Lasserette.”

“A what?”

“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.

“Beige.”

“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.

“It’s Raymond.”

“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.

Thanksgiving with Mom and The Tijuana Brass

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.”

“Who’s that?”

“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?”

“Oh, anything.”

“Ginger ale?”

“Okay.”

“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.

“Oh.”

“Remember, Herb Alpert? We had the album.”

“Oh, we did?”

“Yes.”

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.

FullSizeRender

“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.

Raymond

bent fence

photo by Martin Brigden

He walks alongside us up and down the halls. His belt is tightly cinched around his narrow waist, his flannel shirt tucked in.

Raymond says, “Where are we going?”

“This way,” I say, pointing down the corridor in the direction of the sun room.

“I forgot my money,” he says.

“Do you need to buy something?” I say.

“Yes.”

“Maybe it’s in your room,” I say.

“Yes.”

We walk in silence for a bit, then he says, “Christ!” He seems exasperated, but only momentarily.

I wheel Mom to the elevator when it’s time for me to leave.

Dottie, the second shift nurse, and Connie, a CNA, and Raymond are gathered around. Dottie swipes her ID card above the elevator button. This is a “locked” unit.

While we wait for the elevator, Dottie says, “Your mom used to stay up late-till around 10 or so—but now she’s usually in bed between 7:30 and 8. Right, Katherine?” Dottie giggles.

“Yes, I get tired,” Mom says.

“Is she eating well?” I ask.

“Yes, for the most part. Sometimes there are things on her tray that she doesn’t like.”

I stroke the back of Mom’s head. She seems to like that.

The elevator door opens, and I kiss her on the forehead.

“You’re leaving now?” she says.

“Yes, Mom.  See you next week.”

Raymond moves toward the open elevator.

“I’ve got to go,” he says.

Dottie holds him by his right arm, and Connie, by his left.

“Not now, Raymond,” Dottie says, giggling. Dottie’s a giggler. I think it’s a nervous thing.

“But I have to go,” he says, lurching forward.

I smile at Mom, Dottie and Connie. I don’t know what to tell Raymond as his eyes search my face through his thick glasses, confused.

*Pseudonyms used for residents and staff members at the Actors Home.

No Reason for Me to be Angry with You

Angry with you
but you wouldn’t understand
I have no reason to be,
You didn’t say or do anything mean or cruel.
You asked, “Did you get your hair cut?”
And I said, “Yes.”
I didn’t ask, “Do you like it?” fearing
the answer would be no, and I’d be madder still.

No reason for me to be angry with you.

We were talking about the documentary, The Roosevelts
that aired on PBS.
You said, “Did you see the World War show?”
“No.”
“They showed all the people coming,” you said.
“Immigrants?” I asked.
“No . . . people.”
“Oh.”

A sunny day.
The nurse unlocked the door to the “Secret Garden”
so we could go outside.
I leaned over to sniff a yellow rose,
most of its petals gone.
“Does it still smell?” you said.
“Yes, it smells good.”
I couldn’t push your wheelchair close enough for you to sniff it
without hurting another plant,
So I didn’t.

mom in garden

Mom in the Secret Garden (photo by me)

No reason for me to be angry with you.

I can’t tell you that your sister died
I think it would be too much
(for me or you?)
A few weeks ago you said,
“I’m so worried, I haven’t heard from her
in so long.”
She called you, and sent hand-painted cards,
chocolates and Victorian magazines
even while she was ill.
I wish I could tell you how things really are,
and that you would understand.

No reason for me to be angry with you.

We watched ER and ate cookies.
You stared at me sometimes
without speaking.
Sometimes you’d smile,
but today it wasn’t enough.
Why can’t you say something?
Tell me that you understand.

No reason for me to be angry with you.

The Help

hospital staff

Otis Historical Archives

“Do you know where Dorothy is?” she asked me. The Woman was a petite brunette, about 5’3”, tanned, gold jewelry bedecking her neck and wrists.

“I think she’s with one of the residents,” I said. Mom and I were taking our usual “spins” (Mom’s term) around the floor.

“My mom needs her medicine, and I need to find her,” she said.

“I’ll let you know if I see her. Did you speak with the doctor?” I said, pointing to the doctor who periodically does paperwork at the nurse’s station.

“No, forget him, he’s no help,” she said.

Lucy shuffled up to the Woman. “Do you know how to get to the downstairs elevator?” she said.

“I’m not one of the staff,” she said, seemingly mortified. Then she stomped off to her mother’s room.

Lucy is a resident at the Actors Home. She is rail-thin with salt and pepper kinky hair cinched into a tight pony tail. She asks everyone, repeatedly throughout the day, where the downstairs elevator is.

I tell her, “I don’t know where it is. I only take the upstairs elevator.”

I don’t believe there even is a downstairs one, and Lucy’s not allowed to take the elevator unless escorted by a nurse or an aide. The elevator can only be accessed with a key fob.

Dorothy appeared.

“Hi, Erica, good to see you. Hi, Katherine,” she said.

“Good to see you too. A woman was looking for you. She said her mom needs her medicine.”

The Woman came out of her mother’s room.

“There you are. I can never find any of you people. Mom needs her medicine,” she said.

“Okay, give me a minute,” Dorothy said and went to attend to another resident. It was 4 o’clock, and she had just started her shift.

The Woman said to me, “I can’t believe it, how rude and disrespectful she is,” and huffed off.

I heard The Woman in her mother’s room continuing, “They disrespect me. Nobody listens in this place—nurses, aides, all the same. How dare she speak to me like that!”

Her voice was rising in pitch and agitation. I can’t imagine it’s good for her mother to listen to her rantings, especially since she has dementia. I doubt she understands what her daughter is saying.

“She seems upset,” I said to Mom, and we continued our spin.

Dorothy returned to the nurse’s station. “What’s wrong with her?” I said.

“I don’t know. I think she needs the meds, not her mom.” We exchanged a smile.

Dorothy walked into the room, and The Woman said,” You say ‘okay’ and just walk away from me? I’m tired of being disrespected. Every time I come here, I get treated like this. It is unacceptable.”

I heard Dorothy trying to calm her down.

“Somebody’s upset,” my mom said.

“It seems so.”

By the way, the nursing home where my mother resides is one of the best, if not the best in the country. I have found the nurses and aides to be uniformly exceptional—caring, hard-working, and attentive to the residents.

So what was The Woman’s problem? She acted as if Dorothy was part of her personal “staff.” Perhaps she fancies herself a Kardashian or a person of great import who feels entitled to dump on “the help.” I would have liked to see Dorothy put her in her place, but I guess that wouldn’t be following protocol. What BS.

I have used pseudonyms for the staff and residents.

The Bow

As I wheeled Mom towards the day room, Raymond swept his arm across his waist and bent his head slightly in a bowing gesture. Then he started to whistle.

“I can’t do it,” he said, only whistling for a moment.

“It’s not so easy to do,” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

He smiled brightly at me as Mom and I moved towards the day room / dining room.

“Where are you going?” he said.

“In there,” I said, and he followed us.

I sat next to Mom at her designated dining table.

Raymond looked at us, smiling, “It’s lovely – this,” and he continued on towards other tables.

Raymond was a professional dancer. The daughter of another resident witnessed the bow and said, “He’s a real gentleman.”

“Yes, he is,” I said.

I can’t remember the last time a man bowed to me. It’s not something that happens every day, especially not in the 21st century.

One of the nurses told me Raymond used to dance with Fred Astaire.

He also likes to go from room to room. When he enters Mom’s room sometimes, he asks, “Is this okay?”

I tell him yes.

I wish I knew what he was trying to say. It’s the same way I feel about Mom.

“Mom, I was in the doctor’s office the other day and you know what he had?” I said.

“No,” she said.

“Pussy willows. Remember them?”

“No.”

As a kid, I marveled at the furry texture of the bud;, they seemed half-animal / half-plant to me.  Where did Mom find such a miraculous creation? 

“They have a long thick stem and little oval blossoms that are silky like kittens. You used to bring them home and put them in a vase,” I said.

“I don’t remember,” she said.

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photo by Liz West

Sometimes I wish she would.

 

*Pseudonyms are used for all residents and staff at the Actors Home.