Loveable

2013.1.29 paintingMother is so loveable and loving.

As we walk through the halls, she stops to tell each nurse and care-giver how beautiful they are—how lovely their clothes are. They in turn beam and tell me how much they love her.

And today—uncharacteristic for a dour Scottish Presbyterian—she lavished praise on the two of us—“We are wonderful, marvelous and beautiful.”

True, she is fading—her cognition fainter—but I prefer to think that she has been distilled to her essence.

Loving and loveable.

The Model
2013.1.29 model

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Saying Goodbye

2014.1.14 paintingDon’t Panic. This isn’t the big goodbye.

Mother is here for the long haul. Since the 1850’s, her family has been living into their mid to late 90’s. They tend to announce when they are going to die and—right on schedule—they do.

But Mom is going to FORGET to tell herself to die… That‘s my story and I’m sticking to it.

No, this is the daily goodbye.

Normally we hug. As I leave, Mom will tell me, “Don’t work too hard.”

But lately she hasn’t wanted the visit to end. As I leave, she walks out with me with every intention of going where I go.
She looks up at me trustingly and I feel like I’m giving her the bum’s rush.

So today, we walked out together and marched back together—singing “Goodnight Ladies.”

Then a HUGE HUG. “Don’t work too hard.”

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Playmates

20140729125019_00004When Mom began to slide deeper into her dementia, I could have heeded her long ago advice:
“Keep your distance Your father and I will be in a safe place and there is nothing more you can do. So live your life and don’t sacrifice it for us.”

In the early years, I did keep my distance—partly due to work—but really I was acting out Mom’s advice. My visits were regular but brief and, I can admit this now, an obligation rather than a joy.

But that changed when my father and Mom’s devoted companion of 66 years died.

I began to spend a lot of time with her.

I learned to appreciate the value of real time—taking delight in the moment and letting Mom set the pace.

I also learned that there a lot I can do. Being a reassuring presence and most important of all—keeping her engaged and connected to life.

She joined the Elderwise painting class offered in Assisted Living and surprised everyone with her fascinating art. Even though she has no conscious memory of painting and thinks of it as a childish waste of time, her paintings allow her to access thoughts and emotions she can’t express any other way.

We play Scrabble (she is fiercely competitive.) We sing, take walks, play with her many stuffed animals and enjoy the birds in the small aviary. We chat—usually on the same subjects: why more women don’t wear skirts and how the city is changing. She is intensely curious.

Gazing in wonder at the Seattle’s changing horizon, she talks about her grandmother and how she wouldn’t recognize the place. She asks over and over what I think Seattle will be like in 50 years. “I won’t be here so you will have to tell me what it’s like.”

“Where will you be—heaven?” I ask.

Naturally,” she replies.

But as much as I enjoy being with Mom, sometimes a fleeting doubt sneaks in.
Should I be doing more? By being her playmate, am I treating her like a child—somehow failing to honor the glorious woman she was?

But one only has to stop and look to see that she is still a glorious woman.

And Mom, it’s no sacrifice. It’s a joy.

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Variations

We sat down for our Scrabble game with the usual opening gambit. “Hi Mom, shall I beat you at Scrabble?”

She balls up her fists in mock aggression. “Noooo, I don’t think so…and I wouldn’t want to make you cry.”

In the middle of the game—“Do something that will help me. I’m very old you know… You should help a poor old lady.”

Then something new—“Usually when you get as old as I, you’re very intelligent.”

At the end of the game, we put the game away and get ready for a walk. I ask if I can use her bathroom, Normally she grins, puts out her hand and asks for 50 cents.

This time it was 967 cents.

“Shall we talk a walk?”, I ask.

“If you think you can walk that far.”

Very feisty. She enjoys the banter immensely.

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