Coming Home

I saw my mom this evening for the first time in a full week. The last time I stayed away that long was probably sometime last fall, when I had the flu. I was out of town Thursday through Monday and felt under the weather yesterday, so I stayed away… just in case I was coming down with something contagious.

So, anyway, I saw her tonight… and I was brought up short by how thin she looks, how very frail. She’s 5’7″ and weighed in at 167 the last time she got on a scale at the doctor’s office, and “underweight” is not a word that I’ve EVER associated with her. She’s still got some heft to her hips and thighs, but her arms and hands look like skin and bones. When did that happen? Is it just more noticeable since I’ve been away for a while and missed the day-to-day changes? I’ve been told she’s eating better at the new place… so why is she still wasting away? It was very disconcerting.

She lit up when she saw me and gave me a tight hug. I took her back to her bedroom so that I could plug in my laptop and do a slideshow of the pictures I took in Colorado, taking time to tell her the stories behind each picture. She seemed to enjoy them. I talked about the graduation events, brought her up to date on the latest goings on with her grandchildren, and also shared about the really special time I’d gotten to have with my sister, Mary Lou.

Then, since it was a very pleasant evening, I took her outside to sit in the back yard. Maria, the head caregiver, came and put blankets on the patio chairs for us and brought my mom a light sweater. We sat there for a few minutes, drinking our bottled water and talking, and then Mom asked if I would take a walk with her around the edge of the yard to look at the flowers. Her walker doesn’t roll well over the grass, so we left it behind and walked slowly, arm-in arm, Mom leaning on me for support. She showed more interest in the various bushes and flowers than she had in the family pictures, asking me numerous questions about the types of plants (which I could never answer). When she leaned forward to reach for a blossom and overbalanced, and would have fallen if I hadn’t been holding her arm, I decided it was time to go back to the patio… via the porch, so she could hold the railing on one side and my arm on the other. We sat for a while on the patio, listening to birds and watching the changing colors of the evening sky.

back garden

“Who lives here?” Mom asked me suddenly. “Is this Mary Lou’s house?”

I tried not to show my surprise and just answered calmly, “You live here, Mom.”

“I do?!?” she exclaimed. “Who else lives here? Someone must…”

I started to explain about the five other ladies who live in the house, and how Maria (who brought her sweater) is one of the helpers who take care of them. She knew who I was talking about, which was a good sign, but said “I haven’t been here for a while, at least a week. I’ve been staying so many different places, and my memory is so bad these days…”

(She’s been at this home for a month now and she hasn’t gone anywhere else, except for brief outings with me – to church or to get her hair cut or to the doctor. In fact, I’m pretty certain she hasn’t left the house for a week.)

I squeezed her arm and told her that I was sure it would all be familiar once we went back inside. And sure enough, she recognized her bedroom and the TV room where her friend Georgia was waiting for her to come watch Wheel of Fortune. She settled into her recliner and seemed perfectly content to be there, so I took my leave… and walked to my car feeling pensive and sad, wondering how much further she had slipped away from me in that one week I was gone.

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