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.