Monthly Archives: July 2017


I knew that it was going to be “one of those days.” For starters, I had to wake up early and be at the nursing home by 9 to bring Mom to the doctor for her appointment. This made no sense to me, as my Mom’s doctor is the visiting physician for the nursing home. But my phone conversation a week earlier with an assistant at his office had confirmed the fact that yes, I needed to bring her there.

This would require a lot of what my Mom used to call “rigamarole” involving sign-offs, paperwork, shifting Mom from one wheelchair to another, and answering Mom’s questions. As soon as I saw her, I could tell that Mom was tired. This meant that I had to be a lot more careful and watchful when moving her from place to place. But it also meant that she would want to close her eyes in the car, resulting in less questions; and maybe she would not want to go out for the usual cup of coffee and donut after the doctor’s visit. I almost hoped she wouldn’t. By 9:30 that morning, I was feeling stressed and exhausted. Mom was looking less like a person of interest and more like just another chore.

As it turns out, there had been a miscommunication. Mom’s doctor could have simply seen her in the nursing home. I felt my blood pressure rise, but then I was treated to one of my favorite sights — Mom’s doctor grasping both of her hands in his at the end of the visit, telling her that she was doing wonderfully and everything had checked out fine. Mom’s doctor communicates directly with Mom after every exam, holding her hands in just that manner. I never tire of seeing this happen, and it always makes my heart melt.

And so I left the office with Mom in a fairly good frame of mind, and was more open to a stop for coffee.

“Would you like to get a cup of coffee, Mom?”

“Well, you like coffee, right?”

I had to smile. No one returns a volley like Mom.

“Yes, I do! Let’s get some!”

We made our way to the Dunkin Donuts in nearby Red Bank, and our journey was not without its glitches. Mom tries to be helpful, but often ends up being a wrench in the works. I try to be even-keeled, but my mood shifts like the wind. If prizes were awarded for trying hard, Mom and I would be winners. But they’re not, so .. well.. there we were.

“Ugh, ugh, oh no,” Mom said as I placed her in the transport chair for the ride into the donut shop. “Am I hurting you?” I asked crankily, realizing that I needed that third morning cup of coffee more than I had expected to. “No, I feel badly for you!” she said.  “OK well you’re not helping me by making those noises,” I said. “Ok, sorry” she said and we sailed in with the help of all the John Q. Publics who always hold the doors open for us (God bless them).

I deposited Mom at a table with a view (of highway 35, but hey whatever) and announced that we should split a donut. My mood had shifted to the dark side once again. “That’s fine,” Mom said. We usually get a donut each, but at this point  I was frankly looking to get this whole thing over with and get Mom safely back into the home. Besides, I’m trying to cut down on my sugar intake (why that should affect my poor Mom, I can’t tell you. I haven’t a clue.) But when I walked up to the counter, I saw the most beautiful sight; it was a tray of jelly donuts with a layer of creamy white icing and a colorful, sort of windmill-like spinner on top of that. I know it sounds crazy, but the sight of those donuts lightened my mood. I returned to the table and Mom said, “So, we’re splitting a donut?”

I could hear the disappointment in her voice, and I was happy to tell her otherwise. “Oooh, that’s pretty!” she said happily when she saw my donut. I could tell that she was thrilled to have her own favorite, the Boston crème, all to herself.  I also realized that I had almost been stingy not only with the donuts, but with my time. After that I relaxed, and Mom and I had a great conversation and lots of laughs courtesy of our chance encounter with my former supervisor (Mom afterwards –“Ooh, he’s handsome — did you say his name was Howard Stern?”) and a woman who sat nearby wearing an overly bedazzled outfit (“Who is that?” “I don’t know, Mom!” “Hmmm,” Mom said, eyebrows raised in disapproval as though she was placed in charge of setting society’s limits on how much of your attire you are allowed to bedazzle).

I returned Mom back to her facility with the usual fanfare. There is something about Mom that causes a flutter of activity around her, and much admiration. It was something I’d forgotten when she lived with me. And, frankly, I’d forgotten about it quite often up until yesterday.

So I guess my miscommunication with the doctor’s office and my outing with Mom was one of those things that was meant to happen. It was a timely reminder that Mom is not a burden or a chore or someone to be dealt with and then forgotten about. She is a bright light in a dark forest, a polarizing force that causes you to laugh out loud and not care that you are spitting out bits of your windmill-festooned donut. She helps you forget your troubles, while at the same time encouraging you to believe that whatever it is that has been weighing on your mind is either best forgotten or going to get better. Her mere presence causes you to feel enclosed in beauty and joy and promise.

She is, in a word, bedazzling.


Funny Lady

It is taking a while for John and I to wrap our heads around the fact that Mom is in a nursing home. For Mom, not so much. She is thriving in her new environment. This is partly due to luck — the place suits her fine — and her faith, as in “This is where I belong.”

Truthfully the atmosphere is indeed a fun and lively one. “There’s always something happening here,” Mom said with a smile and a shrug during a recent visit. Due to poor planning on my part, I had arrived just before dinner did. I found Mom sitting alone at a table in the dayroom, taking her daily siesta. She was pleased to see me, but there was some confusion on our part about whether Mom heads downstairs to the dining room for dinner or stays in the day room. As usual, one of Mom’s aides managed to read our thoughts. “Your Mom stays in the day room for dinner, and goes downstairs for lunch,” she said, which made perfect sense. Mom is social but in small doses. She enjoys her alone time, which — in retrospect — she could only get while in bed at my house. I am a hoverer of the highest order. By contrast, the tall and pretty aide grabbing the dinner trays while doing a million other things is not a hoverer. She is what you would call “happy go lucky” and I rarely see her without a smile on her face. “She is so patient,” Mom said, and I concurred.

“We love your mom, she’s such a funny lady!” the aide said as she placed Mom’s tray on the table. I nodded, but I was a bit surprised. In all honesty, I rarely think of my Mom as funny. Sturdy, pretty, meticulous, strong-willed, and loving for sure. But funny? Dad was the funny one, the King of the One-Liners. Mom’s humor is unintentional and most often self-deprecating. And for that reason alone, I never really considered Mom to be very funny. It’s on the list of adjectives, for sure, but not at the top.

“Here you go, Mommie Dearest,” I said as I stirred milk and sugar into Mom’s coffee. It’s one of our many inside jokes, but I realized that I had spoken too loudly when the aide’s head whipped around. “Oh no, not her, she’s no Mommie Dearest!” the aide  said, and I could see a questioning smile on her face. “It’s from one of our favorite movies,” I explained. We then engaged in a conversation that basically recounted the litany of great movies starring Bette Davis and/or Joan Crawford — many of which the aide had seen with her own grandmother. It was a reminder of how the simplest joys can enrich our lives and inform our perspectives. My mind turned to the many special — and, in retrospect, fleeting — moments I had shared with my Grandma and then my Mom while watching TV. I am embarrassed to admit that “The Bachelorette” was the first thing that came to my mind. It was not one of Mom’s favorite shows by any stretch, but I happen to like it.

“Ma, are you watching ‘The Bachelorette’?” I asked. Mom looked a bit confused, so I offered a prompt. “You know, the one where the lady is looking for a husband?”

Mom’s eyes brightened. “Oh yeah, I think so.” And then she frowned. “Did she get one yet?” she asked impatiently, displaying her apparent aggravation with the whole shebang. I had to laugh, and she did too.

It was a timely reminder that funny is funny, whether the humor is intentional or not.

And also that, at the age of  90, you are bound to have little patience for “the process.” So go get that man already, Rachel! Mommie Dearest is counting on you.