We go into the living room to chat some more. Of course Mom can’t hear anything even when someone shouts. No one is sitting close to her to repeat everything so she just misses most of it. She’s gone to the bathroom three or four times. She’s sat down and fiddled with her purse, zipping it and unzipping it, pulling out little zipper cases she has inside, zipping and unzipping them and replacing them. At one point she has taken out her hearing aids and put them in a pink zipper pouch in her purse. My aunt Anna Lee sees her do this and tells us where they are. My mother “loses” one or the other of her hearing aids, sometimes both. They show up under her bed or wrapped in tissues in her purse. Her wedding rings and mother’s ring have both disappeared, the consensus being that she threw them away in the wads and wads of tissues she keeps in her purse.
This is something I always remember about my mother from childhood. She always had a ton of tissues in her purse.
We have been outside to look at Maxine’s garden, vegetables, flowers and trees. Maxine is as successful at growing things as she is at cooking them.
Louella and William arrive. They have already eaten, so they join us in the living room. My mother seems uncertain about who exactly they are. At one point my mother has gotten up, probably to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water. She comes back into the living room where we are all still assembled and chatting and she stands for a moment looking around and then says, “Where’s Marsha?”
Conversation stops and we all look at each other before someone says, “Marsha isn’t here.” Louella has a daughter named Marsha. Perhaps that’s who she means. But my mother hasn’t seen her in years. My mother seems agitated and bewildered. “But she was here, wasn’t she?” No, Marsha’s not here. This is Louella. Although Louella is Mom’s niece she’s only a few years younger, the offspring of Mom’s eldest brother who was nineteen when she was born. “Then where’s that young girl that was here?” I am sitting next to Maxine and I say, “Maybe she means me. She thinks I’m only forty.” I get up and stand in front of my mother. I say, “Do you mean, me, Mom?” She looks as if she’s about to cry. She says, “When did you get here?” Yesterday, Mom. I hug her. She says, “Oh, it’s so good to see you. When did you get here? I’m so glad you’re here.” It’s nice to be here.
I lead her to the couch and sit next to her so I can repeat anything I need to. I should have done this in the first place. Conversation resumes, but I am getting tired. She probably is, too. I suggest to Steve that it’s been over three hours since we left so maybe we should take Mom home. He agrees. Four hours is about her limit.
We get in the truck again to take her back to St. Luke’s. I back out of Maxine’s driveway and head for Carthage. Mom’s house is just a few blocks from Maxine’s and as soon as I head in the opposite direction she says, “If you’re taking me home, you’re going the wrong way.”
We begin our routine all over again. Steve explains to her where she lives now is home and that I’m going the right way. I in turn, repeat everything he says loudly into her ear. She says if she’s going home she needs her key. She begins unzipping the pockets of her purse and searching for her key. We tell her it’s fine. We have an extra key. But she won’t stop searching. She tells us we’re going the wrong way. We vary the repetition of assuring her we’re going the right way and that she doesn’t have to worry about a key all the way to Carthage.
When we arrive she says if she knew she was going to stay here she should have packed a bag, she should have brought some clothes. Why didn’t we tell her? She’ll need a key. Where’s her key? She has to find her key.
We walk her inside. I jiggle her door handle to pretend I unlocked it but she is not fooled. Did I leave my door unlocked? she asks. I’ve turned on her ceramic light up Christmas tree when we walk in. She says did I leave that on? I say no, I just turned it on. She goes to the bathroom. I sit down and look at her small space. It is barely decorated and although I’ve thought of bringing more pictures to hang on the walls where there are already nails, a few things to make it more homey, I’ve realized by now there’s no point. She couldn’t see them anyway and chances are she’d take them down or throw them away. It would just be more things someone would have to cart out of the room when she no longer needs it. She’s happy in this place, in this space, so why change it?
I can hear Steve talking to the nurse at the station that is just beyond my mother’s room. He’s checked her back in, talked to her about Mom’s memory issues. Steve’s already told me he’s researched it online. He doesn’t understand it. Is it dementia? Is it Alzheimer’s? I think it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing that can be done for her.
When he comes back into the room it is time for us to leave. We don’t say it, but I’m sure we’re both feeling it. We are more than ready to go. We hug Mom goodbye and she hugs us with feeling, something I don’t recall her ever doing before now. She walks with us down the corridor to the exit and hugs us again and thanks us for coming. We escape out the glass door into the warm, windy evening.
To be continued…look for Family Therapy in The House of Dust, Part Six coming soon.
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