Settling in to Trinity Gardens

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Settling in to Trinity Gardens

Mom fell again. She looks like she has been in a fight; her eyes are black and blue and she has a big bruise on the side of her face. They said she tried to stand up and fell face forward and hit the end of the bed. Of course this meant another ambulance trip to the emergency room and an MRI of her head. (She went three times when she was at Atria) She checked out OK, but needed twenty stitches for the gash in her head.

When Trinity Gardens called to tell me about the fall, I was suffering from a bout of food poisoning and didn’t know how I was going to be able to make it to the ER. Thankfully, hospice was called and between the hospice nurse and a caregiver from Trinity Gardens who drove over to be with her, all was well. My reservations I had about whether or not to keep my mother on hospice quickly vanished. I was reassured that she would be taken care of in an emergency.

My mother seems to like Trinity Gardens. After I left her there the first time, I wondered if I had made the right decision. Atria had activity, and residents were moving around, even if it was with their walkers. Here, a circle of recliners or couches is arranged around a large TV screen, and the residents sit there most of the day sleeping or watching television. I soon realized, being with a more active group could not help my mother. Her dementia had made it harder to interact with others and she needed to just sit for most of the day. This is where she is mentally at this period of time. I wonder if being around residents who were able to converse with each other easily, might actually have been frustrating for my mother. She tried so desperately to make sense when she talked, but most of the time she didn’t.

My worry that my mother would object to sharing a room came to nothing. She did not complain and perhaps didn’t even realize that she didn’t have her own room. This also served to reinforce to me that my mother was not the same person she was two years, even a year ago, when she would have staunchly refused.

The caregivers at Trinity Gardens are kind and genuinely caring people.

When she first moved in everyone remarked, “Your mother is so sweet.”

“ You haven’t seen her when she gets upset, when she doesn’t want to do something,” I said.

Two days after she had been there I went for a visit. “You were right,” Zairita, one of the caregivers, said, “Now I’ve seen her other side. She can be feisty.”

I laughed. This actually made me feel better. I knew then that the mother I’d known all my life, the one with the strong will and independent spirt, was still in there somewhere and wanted to be heard.

The Big Move

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The Big Move

How do you tell someone they have to move from a place they have come to like and leave people they have come to know? I can’t tell the truth which is your dementia has gotten worse and you need more care so you don’t fit in anymore.

The night before I planned to move my mother to her new home I hardly slept. How was she going to react? Would she be sad? Angry like the first time she went to assisted living? Would I have to tell a lie to make her feel better?

I decided I needed to face it head-on first thing in the morning. I arrived at Atria at 10 o’clock when I knew she would be finished with breakfast. As I walked in the door she had just been wheeled into the lobby by a caregiver. Her face lit up and I could tell she was happy to see me. As I began to talk myself out of telling Mom right then, the caregiver gave me an “out.”

“We were just going to the activity room,” she said. “Your mother wanted to watch them exercise.”

“Great,”I said. “I need to talk with Joseph anyway.”

While she was wheeled toward the activity room I walked up to the reception desk.

“Is Joseph in?” I asked Carla, the receptionist.

“They are all in a director’s meeting, but he should be out in a few minutes,” she said.

The first person to come into the lobby from the meeting was the site director.

“How are you today?” she said.

“I’m confused and a bit upset,” I said. “I have to tell my mother she has to leave today and I don’t know what to say.”

“Just tell her she needs two-person assist,” she answered.

Yeah, honey, I thought, I’m sure she will understand that. Never mind how it will affect her.

Just then Joseph came out.

“What is your usual procedure when a person leaves? Do you announce it? Have some sort of going away party? Or should I just take my mother away quietly without letting her friends know?” I asked.

“It depends,” he said. Some leave quietly and others not.There is no real policy.”

“What if I bring a cake?” I said.

“We could do it at Happy Hour at 4 o’clock,” Carla said.

“Yes, we could do that,” Joseph said. “I will tell the activity director.”

With that, I left. I had successfully put off telling my mother and I had a mission: order the cake.

BJ, my husband, and I arrived at 2:30 to see my mother. He had rented a van to move her furniture into storage and was ready to start, so I could not postpone telling her any longer. When we came into her room she was lying on her bed resting.

I said, “Mom we’re here to move you to a new place.”

“Why?” she said.

“You need more help.” I said.

“Is it here?”

“No, it is a place right around the corner from Atria. It’s very nice.”

“Oh.” was all she replied and then she lay there and watched as BJ began to move her things from the room. I stayed as long as I could and then left to get the cake.

When I returned with the cake, residents were just beginning to arrive in the activity room. Some had come for Happy Hour and others were ones who my mother had become acquainted with. My mother was wheeled in shortly thereafter. Soon my daughter came with the two grandchildren.

After some confusion (some thought it was a birthday celebration) those in attendance finally understood that it was because my mother was leaving. As they finished eating their cake people began to come up to Mom to say goodbye and tell her they would miss her. My mother seemed to understand and acknowledge them with “thank yous.”

The next morning went surprisingly well. Mom had stayed in a respite room at Atria the night before. When I picked her up she was ready and didn’t object when she was helped into my car. Upon arrival at Trinity Gardens the owner and a caregiver came out to help her out of the car. They greeted her warmly and she smiled back.

Mission accomplished.

I slept much better that night.

A Place for Mom

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A Place for Mom

I put a $500 deposit on a place for my mother. It is not one I thought I would have chosen, but it feels right.

Last week I received many calls and emails with suggestions from Brad, the senior living placement advisor, and I spent countless hours looking at places for my mother.

I started out with certain criteria in mind.
• It had to be clean, neat, and tastefully decorated.
• Have a private room and bath
• The caretakers were aware of what care my mother needed and had experience with dementia patients and treated                              them with dignity.
• Show that they were friendly, caring people.
• Have a warm, homey atmosphere.
• A positive feeling about it and a place I could picture my mother.

My sister was worried that I would be too concerned about “how a place looked” instead of the people who worked there. I know I am a little compulsive about how a room looks; it needs to be well coordinated with not a lot of knick knacks or frills. My mother’s house was always clean and neat and decorated nicely so I know she feels the same way I do. Even though she has dementia I think she would feel better in surroundings that she feels more comfortable in.

Atria has a lot of windows and always felt open and bright. The rooms have large sliding door windows which also lets in light. The staff was very friendly. Everyone greeted you, and the staff always acknowledged each resident by name. This is the atmosphere I hoped to find again.

I felt a bit like Goldilocks in my search. There was the place that had white walls and floors and hardly any decorations- too cold. And the places that were too ethnic or too cluttered- too warm.

I finally narrowed it down to two.

Emeritus is a large facility that has a 24 bed memory care unit. Residents have private rooms and baths; there are structured activities, a large activity room and dining room. Every week the residents of the unit bake cookies for the whole resident population. It was nicely furnished and seemed like a caring environment.

Trinity Gardens is facility built to house up to ten seniors. It felt more like a home. When I arrived, the cook, a friendly older woman, was preparing the day’s lunch.The kitchen opens up to the common area and is connected to it by a long pine table where everyone eats. There were windows all along the back which made it bright and warm. Off of the common area were the bedrooms. They have both shared and private rooms. At this time they only had a shared room available.

Which place did I choose?

I chose Trinity Gardens. My mother will have to share a room until she can have a private one. I met the lady who it to be her roommate. She does not have dementia, but is limited to a wheelchair because of a stroke. The owner thinks they will get along well together.

Why? My mother baking cookies?! No way. Trinity Gardens is more of a family atmosphere and I think that is what she needs at this time in her life.

She Needs More Care

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She Needs More Care 

The day I was dreading has finally come. My mother has to move from Atria. The Patient Services Director asked me to come in and sign the papers from my mother’s three month review and talk about any changes in her care. It was then he suggested that we have a meeting with the facilities director. We met the next morning. They said it was time my mother moved to a place where she could receive more care.

“Your mother needs more care than we can give her. It isn’t just her dementia, it is her physical limitations. She often                   needs more than one person to help move her,” they said.

This I knew. She had to be helped out of bed and from her chair to the wheelchair. She also needed help dressing and changing her depends. The problem was, when she had to be moved she could not stand to help and was like dead weight, though she only weighed 95 pounds.

My mother liked Atria and I hated to see her have to adjust to a new room and different surroundings, but I knew it would happen at some point. Fortunately, Atria has another senior living community close by that offers memory care. If their rooms and surroundings were similar to where she was it would not be as big of an adjustment, and I liked the care she was receiving from Atria. The directors encouraged me to visit the facility and see if I liked it.

“They will be able to give her more help and get her more involved. They have activities that will stimulate her brain.”

“Stimulate her brain?” I said. “My mother is 96 years old and can’t remember anything for more than a minute. Don’t      you think it’s a little late for that?”

I drove over to Atria Hacienda and was met by the director of marketing who gave me a tour of the memory care unit of the facility. My fears were assuaged. The rooms were not any smaller than the one Mom currently lived in, in fact they appeared larger without a kitchen. The common areas, including the dining room, were nicely appointed. I liked what I saw. Jennifer, the marketing director, showed me the four rooms that were available and told me about a current promotion: if I signed up by the end of the month, which was three days from then, we could have one month free rent. I quickly agreed and we arranged to meet in two days to sign papers. In the meantime the nurse from AH would visit my mother and report back as to what she perceived.

The day before we were to meet, Jennifer called. “I’m sorry,” she said, “but since your mother often needs more than one person to assist her, we cannot accept her into the facility. It is company policy.”

I was confused. “ I thought one of the reasons for the move to AH was that you could give her more care, including assistance.”

I could tell Jennifer felt bad.

“I know, I wish we could help. I have someone that can assist you and help you find a place for your mom,, though” she said. And she proceeded to give me the number of an agency that helps locate placements for seniors.

I had been through this before. I had worked with Senior Living Options so knew the routine. I thanked her and hung up.

I needed time to digest this. What was supposed to be a perfect solution was turned on its head. Of course, I wasn’t given time.

The next morning I got a call. “This is Brad from Senior Placements. Jennifer says you need some help to find a place for your mother. I have contacted some in your area and . . .”

Hard to Believe

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Hard to Believe

I can’t imagine what is going on in my mother’s mind; it must be a constant struggle. The past has melded with the present and she can’t remember what she did two minutes ago, much less the day before.

She still knows us and understands what is being said to her and she can carry on a conversation, but has difficulty retrieving what she wants to say. She will sometimes use the wrong word, for example, say refrigerator when she means television. Her conversations are filled with events that never happened. She walks to the store, drives places, and visits with friends and relatives long gone. When I shared pictures of our vacation we had just returned from, she said, “We went there too, the week before you did.” We don’t try to correct her; if these made-up memories give her comfort that is OK.

Mom tries desperately to maintain control and interact like she normally would. I think her strong independent spirit has allowed her to keep fighting. This strong spirit has started to get her into trouble, however.

Her caretakers all like my mother and think she is a sweet lady, but when she doesn’t want to do something and feels she is being forced, she lashes out at whomever is near her. At first, when the aides said she hit people, it was hard for me to believe. Then I witnessed it myself one day when my sister tried to let her cut my mom’s hair. She gritted her teeth, said, “No, I don’t want to,” and punched her in the arm.

Last month I was called by Atria when my mother insisted she had to go outside and wait for her mother who was picking her up. By the time I arrived she was back in her room, but not before five different aides had tried to reason with her and were recipients of her wrath. She ultimately gave in when the patient services director told her that her mother had called and said she was delayed and would come and get her later.

Mom sometimes doesn’t remember where she is. One day an aide called me on my cell phone while I was shopping. She said my mother was very agitated and needed to talk with me.

“You need to pick me up,” my mother said. “I’m locked in a gas station and I can’t get out.”
“Mom, you’re OK. You are in your room at Atria.”
“Where? I don’t know what you are talking about? You have to come get me.”
“All right. It’ll be about 20 minutes. I’m in a store.”
“You need to come right now.”
“I’ll get there as soon as I can, Mom”

I arrived about 25 minutes later. Mom was sitting in her chair. She smiled at me as I came in.“Oh. I didn’t expect to see you today. How are you?” “I’m fine, Mom,” I said as I sat in the chair next to her. “But how are you? I was worried about you. You said you were in a gas station.” “What? I don’t know anything about that.” I was glad that she had calmed down. She cut my shopping trip short, but probably saved me some money.

When I visited her a few days ago she seemed very subdued. I discovered that her doctor had prescribed Depakote and Celexa through hospice. After I googled MedMD I understood the changes. Celexa is an anti depressant and Depakote is given for people who suffer manic episodes, usually connected with bipolar disorder. I was worried. I talked with my sister and we scheduled a meeting with her hospice case worker/nurse as well as the patient services director. When we expressed our concern that she seemed a little lethargic they both said that she was given the medications to calm her down. Assisted living facilities cannot house violent patients. In other words, Mom cannot live at Atria if she continues to become agitated and hit the aides.
No medication: acting out
Medication: subdued
What do you do with a recalcitrant mother?

Straight Talk

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About Money

What is not talked about, but looms in the background in discussions of elder care, is the price to maintain a “quality of life.” We want to see that our loved ones have good care at the end of their lives- they deserve it. We are faced every day with decisions to see that this is so. But it makes you wonder, though, at the cost.

Every month I receive a bill in the mail for my mother’s lodging, meals and care. When she first moved to Atria it cost $3,300 and it has risen a little every few months as her care increases.

When my mother first arrived at Atria she qualified for care level one. This level is for residents who are mostly independent. Every month each resident is evaluated by the staff and given a numerical score depending on how much care they receive. This determines the care level they are assigned. Of course, after she had been there six months they saw that she needed more oversight and help, and she was placed at care level three. This increased the cost $400 which didn’t seem too bad. I knew she was not able to make her bed any more, she called for help more often, and asked them to bring her meals to her room. She soon required even more attention when she began to have hallucinatory episodes.

What you don’t count on is the “do-able” rate they start at will inevitably increase year after year and month, by month. One day I opened a bill from Atria that I dropped in shock. $7,087!! It was high, I finally realized,  because they charged her retroactively for part of the the previous month. In the middle of that month the Haldol had taken affect and she lost use of her legs. She then needed help with almost everything: using the toilet, dressing, getting in and out of bed and being taken to the dining room in her wheelchair.

After we sold my mother’s house, I put $50,000 into her checking account and the rest into a money market account. With my Dad’s pension and my mother’s small social security allotment I estimated we could use the checking account money to supplement her assisted living costs for three years before we had to delve into the money market account. When her care costs rose to over $4,000 I recalculated and determined the checking account money could last for two and a half years.

When her bill jumped to over $5,000, not dipping into the money market account became moot. It was not a question of if we would have to draw from it, but when. Last month I wrote the last check to Atria from the checking account. We had to transfer all her savings to an annuity that will pay out every month. Now, according to my calculations, it will take three years and four months before her savings is used up. She can live until ninety-eight until she runs out of money.

She is now on care level six and her bill evens out to about $5,400 a month.That comes to $64,800 for twelve months, more than most people earn in a year!

For the amount spent on caregiving a person could live in a four star hotel with room service. It is sad that at the end of our lives so much money is required to sustain us at a time when we are not physically and mentally able enjoy it.

At times, I have considered what it would be like to put my mother on a cruise ship and send her on a world tour. Same cost.

Her Birthday

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On June 5th my mother turned 96. That morning I drove over to see her and thought I might stay for lunch. I also had her mail and a small bouquet of flowers to bring to her. I arrived at Atria at 11:30, and as I walked to the front door I noticed someone sitting outside by door. To my surprise, it was my mother. Not only had she never done that before, but the temperature outside was close to 107 degrees.

But there she sat in her wheelchair holding a blue and pink helium balloon that said Happy Birthday!. She looked as if she were waiting for someone. It wasn’t me. I don’t tell her ahead of time that I am coming because she never remembers anyway.

“What are you doing out here, Mom?” I said.

“I’m waiting to go home,” she said.

“What do you mean?” “Who are you waiting for?”

“What do you think I mean? I’m going to Riverside. A limo is picking me up. There’s nothing left for me to do here.”

This is where my guilt kicks in. At that moment she looked sad and vulnerable. I know she misses her home in Riverside, but we sold her house and all her belongings are gone or in storage. We haven’t told her because it would devastate her. We want her to think everything is as she left it and she always has the hope of returning.

“Well, it looks like they celebrated your birthday today,” I said pointing to the balloon, trying to bring a more positive tone to the moment.

“Oh, I guess they did give me that. I forgot,” she answered.

“Have you eaten lunch yet? Why don’t I take you inside and we can eat lunch.”

“ No, I’m not hungry. I want to sit out here for awhile.”

After I tried unsuccessfully to convince her to come in, I finally gave up and told her I would return in a few minutes, and entered the lobby. I went to the desk to sign in and greeted Carla, the aide who is usually at the reception desk.

“She didn’t want to come in,” I told her as I shrugged my shoulders.

“ I’ve tried to get her to come in too, but she said she was waiting for her father to pick her up, then she changed it and said her husband was coming,” Carla said.

“Now she is waiting for a limo. I’m going to her room and be right back.” I had to set down her mail and the flowers, and I thought if I gave her a few minutes she would be ready to come in.

When I returned to the lobby Mom was no longer outside. Carla pointed to the dining room. It wasn’t hard to find her; she was at her usual table near the front, sitting with her friends Sylvia and Ann. I sat down in the remaining seat.

“So you decided to eat lunch anyway,” I said to her, after I said hello to everyone.

“No, I,’m not going to eat. They just brought me in here. I’m having cranberry juice.”

I am grateful to the aides. Since Mom has been in the wheelchair, they make sure she comes into the dining room every day, I guess whether she is hungry or not, to give her a chance to be out with the other residents.

Soon Sylvia left and Mom and I were talking with Ann, when Erika, my daughter, walked in with the two grandchildren. Two young children entering the dining room full of eighty and ninety-year-olds was like a jolt of electricity. Jayden, the six-year-old, ran up to my mother and gave her a big hug and a present. My mother’s eyes lit up. This was the just dose of reality that “grandma” needed and a perfect birthday gift.

And How Are the kids?

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And How Are the Kids?

If there is one thing my mother loves more than anything it’s her grandchildren, and this has not abated, even with her memory loss. My daughter and two grandchildren live close to me and my mother looks forward to seeing them. However, she is confused about where they live. Whenever I talk with her she asks, How are the kids?”  She thinks they live with me, much to my daughter’s dismay. I always have to remind her that they live with their mother and father, and the last time I saw them they were OK.

When the grandchildren grew up and had children of their own and she became physically slower and mentally not as acute, we knew Mom would not able to do the things with the greats that she had been able to do with her grandkids. Sometimes, it is hard for her to realize this.

     When she sees my daughter she will say , “ Bring the kids over any time. I can watch them for you.”

     “We’ll see,” says my daughter tactfully, picturing her very active three and five-year-olds alone in the room with her grandmother for even ten minutes.

My mother must have realized her own nightmare, though. One day Mom and I went out to lunch with my daughter and the two great grandkids. The lunch went well, the kids were good, if a bit squirmy, which is normal. That must have been on her mind because at 10 o’clock that night I got a phone call.

     “Are you coming to pick up the kids?”

     “What kids?” I said, “You mean Erika’s?”

      “Yes…They’re running around the room and up and down the hall. I’ve tried to get them to stop. They’ve been here all afternoon.”

     “ I will call Erika,” I said playing along.

     ” No, Erika is here too,” she replied.

     “Let me talk with her,” I said.

When my mother turned from the phone and called for her I knew I had gone too far with this game.

     “She must have gone out of the room,” my mother said.

     “She probably took them home,” I said.

Just then there was a knock on my mother’s door and I heard an aide talking with her.

     “Ask her if she has seen any kids in the hallway,” I said.

After hearing her ask and the response, I knew that was my “out.”

     “Mom, you’re going to be fine. I’ll talk with you tomorrow,” I said, hanging up.

And the next day when I called she had no memory of it.

     “How are the kids?” she asks.

     “They’re fine,” I say.

Ode to my Mother

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Happy Mother’s Day! . . . to you, whether you are a mother, have a mother, or carry memories of your mother in your heart.
If you are sole caregiver of your mother, Bless You!
As a daughter of a mother who through memory loss and physical disabilities is no longer the mother she used to be, I think this is a good time for reflection. I think of all the care-taking my mother did over the years. Now she needs the caregiving, and though she valiantly  fought to keep her independence, she is now slowly realizing she needs help from others. This must be very hard to accept, but she is trying.
      When we go out somewhere and I push her in her wheelchair, she’ll say,”I hate to have you do that.You don’t have to push me.”  
      I will respond, “Yes I do have to push you. Remember all the times you pushed me in the baby buggy (I’m dating myself here.) or stroller? This is pay-back.” And she’ll laugh. My mother, thankfully, still has her sense of humor.
 
What best represents my feeling about my childhood is the poem I wrote 26 years ago on my Mother’s 70th birthday.
 
Ode to My Mother

 

Memories, memories
come flooding to my mind.
Ones of my years of growing up
from toddler to a teen.
At age of one and twenty-one
and all those in-between.

 

Christmas and Santa Claus,
the Easter Bunny.
The faithful tooth fairy
who always left me money.
Birthdays and parties,
picnics at the park.
Night lights kept burning
when I was afraid of the dark.

 

Measles and chicken pox
and having to stay in bed.
Cotton and ear aches,
painting my throat red.
Brownies, Girl Scouts
loving to go to school.
Taking swim lessons,
our rubber swimming pool.

 

Wearing halloween costumes
that took a lot of time to make.
Peanut butter cookies
and devil’s food cake.
Washing dirty clothes
in the wringer machine,
Ironing my smocked dresses
so I’d look neat and clean.

 

Dancing lessons,
learning how to skate.
Typing term papers,
staying up late.
Playing with my dollhouse.
getting my first bike.
Having the dentist fill my teeth
getting haircuts I didn’t like.

 

Full skirts and petticoats
hanging on the line.
Patent shoes for dress up
that always had a shine.
Watching the Lone Ranger
on the black and white set.
Running through the sprinklers
getting sopping wet.

 

Dressing up and feeding dolls
I had quite a few.
Reading, reading, reading books
especially Nancy Drew.
Taking summer vacations
to the mountains and the sand.
Burning our bodies
so we’d look tan.

 

Visiting Grandma and Grandpa
who loved to have us there.
Looking in the attic
running up the stair.
Memories, memories
ones I hold so dear,
Memories, memories
In recalling them it’s quite clear.

 

None would have been possible
without that special one
who stood beside me,
helped to guide me
to see that things were done.
By her love and caring
she always found a way.
This very special person
is who we honor here today.

 

It was never said
but I think she always knew.
For all the years,
for all you’ve done
Mom, Thank You!
 

Lunch with Mom

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Lunch with Mom

 I usually try to see my mother once a week. I feel bad that I can’t take her out anymore now that she is in a wheelchair, and I picture her bored, sitting in front of the TV all day. One day I was feeling a little guilty about not seeing Mom for over a week, so I thought I would surprise her and drop by to have lunch. In the past she had never wanted to go to the dining room and had them bring her lunch to room, so I thought it would be a treat to go the dining room.

When I went into her room, the television was on, but she wasn’t there. This startled me; most times she is sitting in her favorite chair watching TV. I went to the front desk.

“Oh, your mom’s in the dining room,” she said.

What, I thought, it’s only 11:15 and the dining room doesn’t open until 11:30. 
But, sure enough, as I walked in, there she sat with her wheelchair pulled up to a table. What I wasn’t expecting, though, was that she was sitting with another woman and as I sat down she introduced us.

“Sylvia,” she said, “this is my daughter, Kathy.”

Sylvia, a neatly dressed Asian woman, nodded and murmured hello. My mother told me that Sylvia had lived down the street from my grandparents in Glendale. Sylvia was, in fact, from Los Angeles, but to my mother that was close enough to connect her to my grandparents’ house when they lived there in the 1930’s.

I began to show Mom pictures from my iphone of the great grandchildren which she enjoyed and grounded her more to reality. After looking at each one, she handed the phone over to Sylvia to look at. Sylvia nodded as she viewed each one.

After a few minutes we were joined by another woman, Ingrid, who said hello to my mother and Sylvia. While Sylvia hardly said a word, Ingrid chattered and seemed to be constantly looking for something in her large purse propped up next to her. She wore a long skirt, with plenty of jewelry and her hair was in a long braid down her back. She could have been thought of as a hippie if she were younger; now she would be called eccentric.

“Your mother doesn’t eat enough,” Ingrid said, turning to me.
“I do eat,” my mother said.
“Well, you eat like a bird. She also steals Sylvia’s tea.”she said.
Both Sylvia and my mother looked at her and didn’t say anything.
“I see Sylvia has a teapot. Maybe my mother thinks it’s coffee,” I said in her defense.

When it came time to order, Sylvia just said, “soup,” my mother couldn’t make up her mind until the waitress suggested salad, and Ingrid ordered salad, but complained because they didn’t have the salad dressing she liked. After our meals came, Sylvia and my mother ate silently, while Ingrid talked to me. Her sons made her sell her house. She loved her house and didn’t want to leave, but she guessed she had to. She couldn’t remember where her sons lived, when I asked her. She thought one lived in Palm Springs.

I looked over at my mother saying, “Yes, it is hard to leave a house you’ve lived in for a long time,” but I didn’t get a reaction.

Then I noticed my mother, who always ate slow, was having difficulty getting the food to her mouth.

“Mom, you need to sit closer. You’re getting food in your lap.” I could see now why some of her clothes were stained and she had so much laundry.
“Yes, you’re spilling your food on your clothes.” said Ingrid.

My mother reached down and pulled the lettuce leaves off her blouse and continued eating, still not sitting closer.


Sylvia, who hadn’t said a word this whole time, had finished her soup and was soon approached by an aide who asked her if she was ready to go back to her room, and wheeled her away. My mother said she was finished having eaten only a fourth of her salad.

As I wheeled Mom back to her room my mother said, “I hate to have you do this. I can walk back.”
“I know, I don’t mind,” I said, letting her keep up the façade. “Its nice you have friends to sit with.”
“Yes,” said my mother.


Yes, I thought, even though they didn’t have much to talk about, they had companionship. I was going to surprise my mother for lunch, but instead, she surprised me. And her surprise was better.