Out of the Mouths of Old Babes

My mother recently moved to a senior apartment due to declining health. Although the sign out front says “luxury apartments”….believe me, she’s not living on a golf course.

The facility provides three meals a day, 24/7 on-site staffing, emergency pull cords in the apartments, housekeeping, and planned activities.

Mom is showing the early signs of dementia. For the most part she knows what’s going on, but she gets confused easily and she often comes up with observations that don’t quite hit the mark. She’s not crazy about living there….feels like she’s locked up, but she does enjoy the meals and twice-daily desserts.

She frequently complains about the super small kitchen sink, “I feel like a squirrel in a cage. Can’t do anything with that sink.”  (There’s really no need for a bigger sink.)

One thing I’ve noticed is she can be very funny. At least she makes me laugh. For example, there’s a woman who lives there with long grey hair parted down the middle. I know it’s not nice to say this, but Mom described her as “spooky looking”…and you know, she would look at home on The Munsters or The Addams Family.

At Christmas time, I was visiting and there was an announcement that a concert would be starting in a few minutes. “Let’s walk down the hall and see who it is.” The building has a big atrium that opens up where you can look down at the other floors and see what’s going on. It was a Salvation Army volunteer that day and she said she had heard him before and didn’t want to listen. “I’m getting tired of all their amateur entertainers,” she whispers.

One day Mom was worried because her table mate Mabel said she had seem Mom and another woman “shooting up.” I tried to explain that nobody would believe it…or she could just go along with it and tell the lady she was shooting up insulin. Mom just couldn’t see the humor in it and is worried someone is going to believe she’s a junkie.

Another day Mabel had me in stitches describing how she’d seen Mom “and four other women” on TV…and that someday she’d be laughing when everyone realized she knew what she was talking about. We’re all sitting in the lobby and I’m laughing so hard by side hurts as Mom and Mabel quibble about this silly story and two other ladies are mumbling that I’m laughing too loud.

One of the other ladies looks like my Aunt Irene…and I realize, old folks are a lot like babies…they all kind of look alike.

Mom’s complaining she can’t wear one sweater “it’s too wrinkled”…I don’t point out that only one of the socks she is wearing has stripes as I don’t want her to loose her confidence in her ability to get dressed each day.

Another day Mom told me a story about another resident. She thought they were “trying to hide the old man.” When I asked her who he’d be hiding from, “From the insurance company. I think they’re looking for him. I think he was in an accident or something.”

The number of friends I have who have a parent living in this place is rising. On Christmas day, one friend was dropping her mother off and she told Mom her mother loved it there and said it reminded her of a luxury resort. She asked Mom how she liked it, and her assessment was, “It feels like a prison.”

 Today when I called Mom, she said in a somewhat delighted voice, “We had some excitement at breakfast this morning.” A gentleman she introduced to me last week didn’t make it past his bacon ‘n eggs today to see his 103rd birthday this year.

“It’s too bad he didn’t go quickly like he wanted to.” She said he coughed for several minutes. I told her I thought that was about as quick as one could expect as I assumed what he meant was he didn’t want to be sick for days, weeks, or even months.

I guess when you reach the last chapters of your life…there’s comfort….and hope….in seeing someone else getting released from the place.

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