Monday, June 14, 2010

Riding the Rails with Mom


“I see the train,” said my mother, touching her walker.
“It sure keeps you moving, doesn’t it?” I said.
“Yes,” she answered, looking up at me in surprise, “it does.”

My daughter and I visited Mom on Sunday morning. She had a glow, said my daughter afterward, when we found her in the dining area with the other elders. She had a sprig of jasmine tucked behind her ear.

We went outside with her to the padded chairs under the umbrella. Mom wasn’t feeling very communicative, and she played with the woven end of her belt while I told her all the news I could think of. When I stopped talking, there was a silence, and then she said that thing about the train. Maybe she was just waiting for me to shut up. A little later she said, “It’s sad about the trees.”

I don’t know for sure what she meant, but last winter she was concerned about the leafless trees. She thought they were dying because she had forgotten about seasons. So I told her, “But the trees came back! We had lots of rain. They’re doing well now.” I smiled at her. She said, “Oh, yes,” and smiled back.

The activity girls came out and asked if we would like to go to Sunday devotions and singing in the big room. We took the long walk down to it, me leading with my hand lightly resting on Mom’s train, and Milo playing Caboose.

The girls handed out the words to some great old hymns and started the CD. I gave the folder to Mom, and she held it steadily in front of her while I pointed out the words and sang them as loudly as I could. A friendly lady with a spectacular voice sat beside us. Between the songs, she told me that she had five grandchildren. Each time was brand new again.

Mom didn’t smile but she seemed to take pleasure in the music. It was lovely, looking at and listening to the elders, some nodding, some singing, some just sitting patiently. The girls read one of Psalms, and then we said the Lord’s Prayer. Mom didn’t speak it. When it was over we sat waiting for our turn to be taken back to Mom’s “neighborhood.” One of the girls came over and thanked us for coming. I asked her if she had seen “Benjamin Button.” “This is like that,” I said. She said yes it was.

I told my daughter as we walked back, “This is like preschool too.” Milo said, “It’s sad.”

When we got ready to go, I told Mom I loved her. “I love you too,” she said and kissed me. Milo said, “I love you, Grandma,” and Mom said, “I love you too.” Milo put her cheek next to her grandma. “Give me a kiss, Grandma.” And Grandma kissed her cheek.

They age backward, I told Milo when we went to the car. They lose their abilities in the same order they gained them. I think my mom is about two years old now. It’s just like the “Benjamin Button” film, I said again because it has been on my mind. It’s really sweet. “I’m glad I went to see her,” Milo said. “It’s nice to know she knows who I am.”

And it’s nice to know she knows she is loved.
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My Poetry Bus friends: If you'd like to hear me reading a poem about the significance of one's name, click this link, wait patiently for the file to download, then go to 7:21 and listen until 8:21.
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22 comments:

Elisabeth said...

It is like that Benjamin Button film and all the sadder for it and yet as you suggest to Milo there's joy and beauty there too.

Birdie said...

Such a sweet post. Thank you for sharing Chris. Nowadays when everything seems to be so concentrated on the youth and the beauty, it's nice to hear or read a real life stories of the old people. We must not forget that God willing we will also be old one day, we also will be the 2 year old ones again, slowly diminishing ... Death is an inevitable part of our lives. Sending love ...

Syd said...

Sounds like a good visit. Yes, they do revert to childhood. I could see that with my mother towards the end. I am sure that your mother feels the love.

The Bug said...

I LOVE that picture of your mother!

My dad leads hymn singing at one of the local nursing homes & then another gentleman does the Sunday School lesson. I always go to help daddy sing if I'm home on a Sunday. You can tell that even the folks who can't really see & don't remember the words anymore enjoy the music. Daddy's done this for years - probably 7 or 8 now.

Andrew said...

It is nice that three generations can relate in love.

Magpie said...

What a wonderful way to share a Sunday with your mother and daughter. I'm so glad she was able to express her love for you both and yes, that she knew she was loved. You all sound like three amazing women.

Georgina Dollface said...

Yes, it is like Benjamin Button isn't it? This reminded me of when I visited my Nanna with my Mom, and when we left I was really sad. We lived 6 hours away - and so I felt like we were abandoning her, even though my aunts were close by. My Mom comforted me by saying that time passed differently for my Grandmother, that she wouldn't notice/remember that we had left. While that made me sad, it also made me feel better that my grandmother truly did live right in the moment - an ability that we gradually lost in our youth as we got older and started to live in either the future or the past, but never in the present. - G

Brian Miller said...

that last line left me with a smile...some tender moments there and you can feel the love through out...enjoy them..

TechnoBabe said...

Feeling loved is still there on both sides, isn't it?

Jeanne Iris said...

How lovely and thought provoking: the significance, or not, of one's name. Thanks so much for sharing this audio file, Ms. Oak d'Enchantment.

Pat transplanted to MN said...

It looks like she is coming along well, a good photo. In PA I sat with an afternoon hymn sing with my 92 year old uncle and the mostly women in the assisted living home who attend those vents in their great room. I know they all enjoy the time even though so few of them sing the words. Good that your daughter went too. My uncle says things, after I talk myself silent, "did you finally run out of words?" His is a kind of dementia, not A.

Karen said...

I'm with you, Chris.
xoxo

S.L. Corsua said...

The part about the leafless trees moved me beyond words. Your mother has a touch of serenity. Your writing records it. You have the touch as well.

Woman in a Window said...

Sometimes the truth holds more than any condensed poetry does, you know Chris? What your mom says, who she is, how you respond to her, it is so painfully beautiful. So beautiful.

And that photo of her. Her beauty strikes me with awe.

xo
erin

Totalfeckineejit said...

Fantastic visceral poetry, (clever naturally, but)all heart.Maybe it's the reading that adds something(you read so well) but I thought these were really great.

Titus said...

Beautiful photograph, beautiful writing. Thank you for telling the story of one Sunday.
Made me a bit teary too.

The audio file's not doing anything for me at the moment, but I'll keep trying.

My love.

Titus said...

And you are fine.

Loved it.

tony said...

A Beautiful Lady.

NanU said...

This is a lovely story. I hope you don't get discouraged, but enjoy your mom as long as she's with you.

Nana Jo said...

Your mother has a beautiful face. I'm drawn to it over and over again. When I was a young nurse in training, the prevailing thought at was to "orient people to real place and time" when dealing with geriatric dementia. We were taught to do this. Now though, we're wiser and we've come to know and understand that the best care involves entering into the person's own 'place and time' ... their world, not ours. The way you interact with your mother in her world is beautiful ... and perfect. She is loved, indeed ...and so are you.

Sandy said...

She's a beautiful lady.

Marla said...

Oh my, Chris......this is perfect. The photo of your beautiful mother, the wonderful writing about your visit. I am sitting here blubbering, missing my dad. Missing our crazy conversations made unforgettable to me because of his dementia. I miss him.

Thank you for writing this!

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