Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Complete Sentences

"No, the coffee has no flavor," she announces. I am constantly stunned when Mom produces such clear and appropriate sentences. I shouldn't be so stunned. After all, I did ask her if she was enjoying the coffee. I just never expected to get an answer, or rather, an answer in the form of a complete sentence. Ohhhh thank God she is still in there even though she is locked behind the glassy stare. Now she is looking at me intently and I know she wants to say more to me but her brain will not let her. I wait hoping that she will say more, but it just doesn't come. That's okay! I'm happy to hear her at all. I heard her slight southern twang when she spoke! I've missed that. It's ever-so slight, but it's there and if you knew my Mom back in the day, you would know what I'm talking about.

Then suddenly she exclaims, "Those are beautiful flowers!" Wow! I look where she is looking and sure enough, the hydrangeas are beautiful. I agree with her and then ask her if she knows what kind of flowers they are. I know I am pushing my luck but I thought...just maybe....she would tell me. She looks at me and says, "Yes", but she goes blank and looks away. That's okay. I don't care if she can't say the word but I know that she knows what it is and that's good enough for me. What a day! We're talking to each other...sort of. It's so nice to talk with her again. When I dream about her, she can talk, she can walk, and she is wearing flip-flops. It is cruel to awaken and discover the truth.

I am blessed to hear one more complete sentence before I leave. She says, "He has a cute head." Mom is referring to Chase. She has always loved the mini-dachshund breed because those cute heads have adorable floppy ears, big curious eyes, and a long, cold, and wet nose. How wonderful it is to hear her speak again!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


I park the car, get out and go around to open the passenger side. His feet hit the ground running and so I am running too. No matter how much I tell him to slow down, he ignores me. He has one thing on his mind: seeing Mom. I pause to sign the guest book but my arm is being tugged. Donna, the front-desk receptionist, leans over and comments on how big he has grown but there is no time to respond because he has taken off down the hallway and I have to frantically follow. It is strange that at his young age he knows where he is and he knows who he is going to see. How can that be? He is only one. Why can't I keep up with a one year old? I run. I pant. He runs and runs. We are a flurry of activity down the hall but the residents know us well and chuckle when they see us whizzing by. I always tell them that I will come back and say a proper hello once we have seen Mom. Whizzing by the nurses station, they say a quick "hi" to us but know not to bother asking us to stop until we have achieved our goal.

Finally, we find her. How does he know which wheelchair is hers? It is remarkable, really. So young and so smart. I wish I could take credit for that. With my help, he climbs up into her lap and lays a huge, wet kiss on her mouth. Mom does not like this at all but she is so happy to see him that I hate to pull him off. After he has kissed her as much as possible, he finally settles down and sits on her lap. He fits perfectly up there and Mom loves to rest her hand on his back. I push them both down the hall and we enter her bedroom. I close the door and Chase hops down. He loves this part. There is a stuffed animal on the window by her bed. It's his favorite. I give it to him and he happily plays with it while I give Mom and hug and announce that it's nail-cutting day. I hate nail-cutting day but Chase loves it. I bring over the pink bucket filled with soapy, warm water and I put it on the floor. This is always a big mistake but I really have no choice because Mom's bare feet have to soak in it before I can tackle the awkward nail-cutting thing. I quickly put her feet in the water with one hand while I am holding back the one-year-old maniac with the other hand. He loves water! If I am not careful, he will jump right in. The last time we did this he tipped the entire bucket over with his clumsy little feet. It is usually at this point that I wonder why I bring him on nail-cutting day. Okay, the feet are done. Now on to the hands. This is always difficult because when I cut the nails on her hand they usually go flying off of the table and I have to scurry and get them before you-know-who picks them up.

We are finally done and cleaned up. We have to hurry upstairs now because floral arranging is taking place and we need to get a spot at the table. I put Chase on Mom's lap and he balances himself on the edge of her knees while I push them. The ladies upstairs love to see Chase. He is a bit of a distraction at first but once we get settled, I allow him to walk around the room by himself and greet everyone. He is so friendly and sweet. They love his little wet kisses.

It is already lunchtime and Mom needs to get to her table and we need to say our goodbyes. Chase kisses Mom on her mouth again. He always does that before I can stop him. I kiss Mom and tell her that we will be back. She is always glad that we came and tells us to come back soon. We scurry down the hall again and get to the car. I open the passenger door and lift Chase up into the seat. He climbs in without a struggle, I give him a biscuit and he collapses before I can shut his crate door. He is already sound asleep. It was a good day at Barclay.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


She opens her mouth forming a perfect oval so that her lips are stretched over her teeth in order not to let them show. I lean in close and steady my hand as I apply the first sweep of lip color. Her lips are pale and dry but the shape of them are surprisingly perfect looking. It is strange why I have never noticed this perfection before.

I am running barefoot down the hallway to her bathroom. I stop short at her left hip and gaze up at her just in time to see her apply lipstick. This is our daily ritual. I wait until I hear her open the medicine cabinet and then I flee to her side like a puppy running to retrieve a biscuit simply because he hears the biscuit jar open. I marvel at how well she stays in the lines of her lips and wonder why I am unable to stay in the lines of the figures in my current coloring books. Within moments her pale dry lips are transformed. There is an art to her application. She never applies the lipstick to her bottom lip. Instead, she only applies it to the top lip. She carefully but swiftly colors in the shapely contour of the upper lip and then she lifts her right pinky finger to repeat the contour-tracing-action in order to smooth out the color. Then she closes her mouth and rubs her lips back and forth so that the bottom lip gets the color too. She grabs a tissue and rubs the leftover color off of her pinky and then closes the lipstick into the medicine chest where it will sit until tomorrow's ritual. All of this is done in one swift, effortless motion. In fact, all of her motions are multi-tasked, swift, efficient, and effortless.....always. Her daily tasks are met head on with one purpose only: to be swiftly completed.

The lipstick ritual that we shared eventually faded into my childhood past as I grew up and filled my selfish youthful life with seemingly more important things to do. However, her lipstick clad lips became an indicator for me for I could always tell when she was tired or feeling poorly by the lack of lipstick on her lips. No child likes to see their parent ill or tired because in our minds they are invincible. Perhaps this is why I obsessively apply it to her lips when I come for my visits. Now I know that she is not invincible and now I know that we both feel better with our lips colored in.

I step back to admire my lipstick-application-handiness and frown. "Darn it, Mom! I've made you look like a hooker again!" She chuckles as she rubs her lips together. I grab a tissue and clean off my pinky while telling her that applying lipstick for someone else is an art in itself.