It’s not everyone whose story wins an Emmy.
And while Mom doesn’t remember everything these days, she perked up when I told her she had won an award. “Yay!” she yelled, raising her arms in triumph.
This painting of a sunflower seems to capture her attitude perfectly.
Today John Sharify, the writer and producer of the story “I’m Still Here” was gracious enough to present the Emmy to Mom and me. Joining us in the photo is her sister Louise and cousin Frank.
Thank you John for telling Mom’s story so beautifully.
Mom is fond of giving me advice—always beginning with “when you get to be an old lady like me…”
Today she had new advice: “When you get to be an old lady like me, you will say ‘this is right and that is right. But you may find out that it may not be so. You may be wrong’.”
No painting this week so I’m attaching one of my favorite photos of Mom—this one with her grandfather. What a fierce gaze she has.
Mom has always described herself as a “doer and joiner.” A born leader, she was active in the lives of her five children, her extended family and her community. She also had a group of very close female friends dating from college days. Though muted, this remains true today.
On Saturday we played our usual Scrabble game. At game’s end I suggested a walk—which she loves. I excused myself to use the bathroom and emerged to find her gone. I found her next door in Phyllis’s room happily chatting with Phyllis and Kathleen—her posse as I have come to think of them.
And while I would have loved to take that walk, I realized that Mom is far more comfortable with her friends. I left reluctantly but happy in the knowledge that she has once again found another group of close and supportive friends—a wonderful thing.
When my father was in the latter stage of Parkinson’s and middle stage of Alzheimer’s, I was not the best care-giver. I was impatient; I regarded visiting as a “something I have to do chore” and I let my buttons get pushed—reverting to adolescent anger more often than I would like to admit.
But if I knew then what I know now, I would have realized that he was terrified. I would have been kinder and much more patient. I’d let him set the pace. I’d be content to sit with him in silence—to be a calm presence that could reassure him that he was not alone. I’d give him a gentle neck massage knowing that touch is important. I’d smile at him and mean it.
This is what I’ve learned from Mom—and while I’ll never get the chance to do this with Dad, it’s what I strive to do with her and all the ladies in Assisted Living every time I visit.
And before you know it, it’s no longer an obligation, it’s an appetite.
Visiting can be difficult for many. Why should I visit? She doesn’t know who I am, can’t hear me and forgets I was there the moment I leave. What’s the point? Plus it’s depressing…I hear you say.
But visiting can be a joy if you stop looking for the person who was and enjoy the delightful person who is with you.
Today Mother proved the rule. After an hour of chatting about the weather and the view and what Seattle will be like in 50 years—the usual subjects—the conversation took a philosophical turn.
Mom: “When you are a very old lady—as old as I am now—I’ll be dead you know—you’ll have to call me up and tell what it’s like.”
Me: “ Will you be in heaven?”
“Naturally. I’ll knock on your door to tell you what has occurred and if I don’t knock on your door, you’ll know nothing has happened. That we just lie there—dead, doing nothing. (At this point, she mimed looking dead and laughed.)
“And if everyone who says they are going to heaven went, it would be too full. I’ll stay here.”
Later she began singing “Bicycle Built for Two” to one of her stuffed animals. She remembered every word.
Definitely worth the wait.