I’m in Indiana visiting family and friends. Most daylight hours I’m visiting my mom in the nursing home.
Today I will spend another day just hanging with mom, laughing most of the time, comforting the other times. I leave at lunch and dinner time for a short break, and stick around to say goodnight around 8 pm every night.
I arrive every morning at 10:45, after mom has been up awhile, had breakfast and just finished with her daily Mass at the chapel.
Background info on some Catholics and their Mass: Being Catholic imposes an “obligation” on Sunday & Holy Day attendance at Mass, a ritual performed with slight differences by the dozens of different priests the attendees will experience. The main differences are how fast the priests move around the altar and through the prayers and songs. When someone is forced by threat of Hell to be there every Sunday, the priest saying the fastest Mass is awarded mental points by the attendees. Normally, with many time choices available every week, the largest attended Mass is where the fastest priest-Mass-performer dwells.
That information is critical for the dialogue between mom and me yesterday. I gently try to nudge the conversation to a more “PC” tone, but hey…at 99 ½ …mom is mom and words of the past still linger in conversation.
“Did I tell you that priest has us out of there in 30 minutes?”
“Yeah Mom, you said he zips through the Mass quickly.”
“You know, if I had to get dressed up, get in the car and go to church, like I used to, it’s so fast I’m not sure it would be worth it.”
“I suppose not.”
“We have a nice young colored fellow from Africa. He’s from Nee-Jerria, wherever that is.”
“I think he’s from Nigeria.”
“How did you know? Have you met him?”
“No, just guessing.”
“Well he has always mumbled and they told him he has to speak up so we can hear him. Lately he now talks louder and we can’t understand a damn word he’s saying…might as well mumble.”
“You know, I keep rubbing my tongue over my bottom teeth and can feel the tartar build-up. It drives me nuts. I’ve always had regular teeth cleaning and they won’t let me do it anymore. They said it’s because of the medicine they give me.”
“I’ve never heard of that. I’ll ask the nurses so I can understand.”
“We have a dentist that comes around. I complained about it and he said I was not only the oldest person in this place; I’m the only one that still has all her teeth. I told him that was about to end if I don’t get them cleaned. He didn’t answer.”
“I’ll ask around about your medication and teeth.”
“Well it’s important. If I don’t have my teeth I can’t imagine how I could chew this terrible food we get.”
Sometimes long moments of silence go by as we sit in the common area watching visitors come and go and the dozens of patients slowly aiming their walkers over the carpet or guiding their wheel-chairs.
Every time this peaceful silence is always broken by Mom with the same two questions.
“You’re bored, aren’t you?”
“No Mom, I like just hanging out here with you.”
“Well, I need to ask you a question.”
“Am I getting to be one of “those” people? You know, you go into the dining room and their heads are just lying on the tables. They don’t know where they are or who you are. Will you tell me if I get to be of those?”
“I’ll tell you Mom. Right now you’re still the same old mom. You’re just perfect”
“I’m so glad you’re here. I wish you didn’t have to leave. But I know you have your home and Amy and your life. And if you were here every day, you might become of “those” people, too.”