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.