Yesterday evening my mom’s facility had a New Year’s Eve dinner party. They served a special meal (choice of lamb or shrimp scampi) and champagne. There were party hats and noisemakers on all the tables. At the end of the meal, we toasted with our champagne and sang “Auld Lang Syne.” It was all over by 6:00 p.m.
I enjoyed sharing those moments with Mom and her table mates. The ladies at the next table were having a good time with their noisemakers. One of them, a frail little thing who I think has Alzheimer’s, kept saying “Happy birthday! Happy birthday!” She also showed a great deal of interest in Dominic’s “Happy New Year!” party hat, which he insisted on giving to me since he was already wearing his usual baseball cap. The other gentleman at our table teased Dominic about the attention he was getting from the next table, saying “She loves you.” When Dom looked like he didn’t know how to take this remark, I smiled and said “Everyone loves you, Dominic.”
“The people who condemned me to this place didn’t love me,” he said flatly. Oh dear. I was just trying to be friendly and I walked right into a field of emotional landmines. Gently, I steered the conversation another direction and got Dominic talking about when he used to be a professional sax player. I enjoyed talking with him about jazz clubs and the famous players he’d sat in with, all the while keeping one eye on my mom who was having trouble with her shrimp scampi. (“Those noodles might be easier to eat if you cut them.”)
After “Auld Lang Syne” was sung and we’d all toasted to the new year, Dominic sighed and pushed back his chair. “Well, we survived another day in paradise.” Everyone chuckled a bit at that. Dom looked at me across the table and said “Being in this place, I’m beginning to understand why some people commit suicide. It’s hard. It’s so hard.”
Oy. Watch out for my emotional landmines there, Dom. But, of course, he doesn’t know. I’ve talked about my late husband (who also played tenor sax) but I’ve never told anyone at the facility that he killed himself.
And I think Dominic was only talking. God, I HOPE he was only talking… But it breaks my heart that he feels “condemned” to a place that is hard to endure, that no one comes to visit him. And I wish I could adopt him, do more for him than just share the occasional conversation over a meal… but I barely have enough time to attend to my own mother’s needs.