|4:10 PM. Nearly Suppertime.|
I go by to see Meems every afternoon between 3 and 4. At Wedgewood South, they have special activities at 2 in the afternoon, so I wait until the afternoon lull for my visit.
Sometimes we sit in the large common area and watch "Deal or No Deal." My "depression child" mother always advises the contestants to take the first lowball deal that is offered. "But Mom! There might be a million bucks in the case he selected! He can't settle for $8500!" "Eighty-five hundred dollars is better than nothing," she murmurs.
Other days we go sit out in the shade of the porch so that Mom can feel the breeze on her pink cheeks and hear the birds trilling in the trees. I made a playlist of Mom's favorite tunes on my phone. I won't tell you what her numero uno favorite is. There is a whole other blog coming with that amusing tidbit. We sing. We reminisce.
Before long, Meems reaches over to her left wrist and holds her watch face up close to her eyes. "Is it almost dinnertime?" she'll ask. A quick glance at my watch reveals that she has more than an hour until chow time. "Nope! You've got lots of time to enjoy my presence!" "Well. I don't like to be late. I like to be there early." I tease her by telling her that the commute from the porch to the dinner table is all of about 30 seconds long. "We can leave in 59 minutes and have time to spare!" She quiets for a bit.
Two minutes later. "Is it almost dinnertime?"
The funny thing is, she's not asking because she's hungry. In fact, the caregivers have to encourage her to "take 3 more bites" before she can have her dessert. It's not about being hungry. It's about predictability. Five minutes after the meal is over, she will not be able to remember what she ate. Not even what she had for dessert. Sometimes when I'm with her at meal time, she'll ask me mid-meal if she's eating breakfast or dinner. The fact that there is a hunk of meat loaf suspended in midair on her fork does not provide the slightest context clue that she might be in the middle of supper.
She does know this. "We eat at 8:00, 12:00 and 5:00." Every time she tells me this as if it's news hot off the press, I feel a twinge of comfort knowing that she still has a bit of a time table in her mind. That simple bit of awareness means that part of my mom is still in there. She can still sing most of the national anthem and she knows what time meals are served.
If she's showing off, she can tell you that they have "Fun and Fitness" in the mornings and a fun activity in the afternoon. I felt especially proud one day when she was able to tell me that she had to be at the "movies" (aka chapel) at 2:00 because they were going to watch a movie about a dolphin with no tail. AND, they got FREE popcorn and a coke at the movie!
I remember when my boys had to learn our home address in kindergarten. I made up a chant. "Fifty SIX oh FIVE Eighty FOURTH..Street." I was so proud when each boy learned that tidbit of useful information. I get that same feeling of pride when Mom remembers the tail-less dolphin and the times for meals. I almost jumped with joy last week when she recited my home phone number for no apparent reason. And, like so long ago with my little boys she felt pretty proud, too.
At the end of my visit when I start to say goodbye, I know exactly what she's going to ask. "Will you roll me to the table?" "But, Mom, wouldn't you rather sit by the TV? It's about 50 minutes until supper." "No. I don't like to be late." So, I roll her to the table and lock the wheels of her wheelchair. Slowly, she brings the terry cloth bib Wilshire Place so thoughtfully provides around her neck and gently presses the velcro together. I give her lots of hugs and kisses before asking, "When are you going to see me again?" "Tomorrow!" she replies beaming. "That's right! Tomorrow!"
Then, I walk towards the door. I usually take one more look back at her. She's facing a wall. Her tablemates won't be wheeled in for a long while. She's totally content to stare at nothing or simply cat nap. The lump in my throat almost chokes me every time.
She's content. She knows what time meals are served. She can call me at home and sing the national anthem to me anytime she pleases. She still enjoys movies, popcorn and Coke. I feel honored to still have time with her here on earth.