Touring the nursing home

Photo: decorationideas.org

We went to see a

Nursing home for my mother.

Lyngblomsten.

Heather flower,

In Norwegian.

It had all the

Sad trappings

I would expect of a

Nursing home:

Metal hand rails attached to seemingly everything;

Laminate fake-wood signs warning against

Accidentally letting a resident out of the building;

And of course,

The residents themselves.

Men and women,

Shrunken,

Shaking,

With quaky, high voices,

And half a tennis ball stuck onto the bottom of each leg of their walkers.

But you know,

I can make a decision to

Shift my gaze.

I can look

Instead

At the aquarium,

With its bubbling, clean,

Cool-looking water,

Emerald seaweed swaying,

And impervious cyan- and canary-striped flounder

Turning calmly at the corners,

And eternally swimming

Back the

Other way.

There’s the aviary in the corner of the lounge

With warm, golden lights

Bathing the small,

Champagne sparrows with black speckles,

Their wings tiny, beating triangles, as they

Hop from perch to perch

And back

Again.

Or the bright eyes of

Some of

The residents as they

Turn their heads

And look at you

Sideways,

Sliding their walkers slowly down the sallow white tiled hallway.

Some of them will

Smile

In that way of

People

Who have learned that

Nothing’s truly more important than

A small smile

In a day.

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The first memory of Mom

[We’re going to try something, the psychologist said.

Tell me your

Favorite

Memory of your mother.]

It’s my earliest

Memory

Of her.

It’s at our old house,

The dark brown house.

It’s a summer morning.

My mother

Mom

Is in the garden in the

Back yard.

And I come out the

Back door,

And I run

Toward her.

I’m probably about four years old.

I am barefoot,

And the grass is

Wet with dew.

The sun is bright and warm.

The sky is completely

Blue.

The air is still morning-cool

But you can feel it will soon get hot.

I’m laughing

And running past the

Apple trees

Toward Mom,

Who is in the garden.

She is wearing jeans, and a blue t-shirt,

And a bandana triangled around her

Ears and face.

She stands up,

She rises

Out of the garden,

And is smiling at me,

As I run

Toward her.

The sun,

The sky,

The warm air,

The grass,

The trees,

The smell of soil,

It’s all

Awash with

Mother-love.

It is

Love.

All of it.

God,

Maybe.

[Do you get to her?

Do you reach her?]

I don’t have a

Memory of

Reaching her.

[But what would happen next,

If you could create?]

She would step out of the

Garden.

She would walk toward me

In the grass

And catch me up in her

Arms.

We would both be

Laughing

In the sunshine and air,

Under the leaves of the

Apple tree.

[What would happen next?]

I would say,

“I love you,

Mom.”

[What else?]

Then my

Dad

Would be there, too.

And my

Brother.

It would be the four of us,

And maybe our old collie dog,

There in the summer yard.

[And then what?]

Then her brothers would

Be there.

And their wives.

My cousins.

Her grandson, my son.

Her parents would be

Off to the side,

Next to the house,

In the shadow,

Out of the sun.

They would be watching,

And smiling,

And waving to her.

[Anyone else?]

Her students,

Friends.

We would all be there,

Crowded into the yard,

Surrounding her.

[What would happen?]

We would

Gather her up

With our hands,

All of us touching her,

And we would

Lift her toward the

Sun and

Sky,

And she would lay back on our hands,

And she would be

Smiling,

Smiling,

In the

Warm sunshine.

[Good.

Good for you

For weeping.

Finally.]

My mother’s brain

My mother is dying.

I mean,

We’re all dying,

But her

Brain is

Actively

Dying.

She has dementia,

Let me describe it to you:

[After five minutes of sitting and thinking of how to

Describe

My mother’s behavior and words,

And

Not being

Able to:]

It’s so hard to show.

The words

She mumbles

And the actions of her

Hands

(Still manicured, my father sees to that)

Are so

Bizarre

I can’t

Recall them

Later.

I would almost have to

Film her

And transcribe

What she says,

And describe her

Actions as I’m watching

To show you how she is.

My brain,

It would seem,

Likes events and words to

Make sense.

And almost nothing

My mother does

Or says

Makes sense.

Her failing brain

Confounds my

Brain,

My memories of her,

Even from a few days ago.

Me and her,

We’re all tossed together

In some weird

Memory

Vortex.

You can’t

Not

Get pulled in

When you’re around her.

Listening to the mumbling,

Watching the fumbling hands,

You start to wonder,

“Is this normal?

Has it always been like this?”

Next time,

I will try to

Describe her Alzheimer’s.

This time,

My brain feels too

Feeble.