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.

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.

13676048553_52ef898fa0_z

photo by Liz West

Sometimes I wish she would.

 

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