I try to avoid guilt about not visiting her sooner. I delude myself into thinking it's too long for me to walk in the heat from the parking lot to her apartment.... but I'm having a hard time just typing that with a straight face. The truth is she doesn't know if I come every day or every month. Sometimes she has my name, sometimes she is merely recognizing a familiar face. I try to concentrate on the smile in her eyes and not the loss in mine.
It's hard to watch her fade away. Even worse, it's boring.
It used to be that I would talk and she would listen. I liked to talk. She liked me. It worked. I always knew that she found me infinitely fascinating, that my words were pearls of wisdom, that I was funny and smart and worthy. Whether or not any of that was true from her side of the equation, I will never know. I do know that I knew it then and I know it now. It has to be enough for both of us.
Part of being a good audience includes the ability to interject brilliance when the speaker pauses for breath. G'ma was an expert at it; there was never a doubt that she was listening with her ears and her heart and her mind. She was judging and furrowing her brow and contorting her shoulders, too. I always knew where I stood with her. We didn't have to agree, but we always knew.
And now, I'm providing all the depth... and I find that I'm not that interesting when I'm talking to myself.
As we get further from her surgery and the anesthesia is no longer clouding her mind, she's recovered the back and forth, the banter, the snarky humor that makes the caregivers love her. She's fun to be around, as long as we're doing a puzzle or some other craft. There are others at the table, and the rec therapist keeps things moving. On our own, keeping the conversation going is getting harder and harder. I try not to worry, remembering that she won't.
She can't remember and she knows it. It's one of the things she remembers. Not her broken leg or where she is or who I am, but the fact that she does not remember. Somehow, it doesn't scare her.
I don't know how she manages that trick; when I say that I am going to school on being a very old person by watching my mother this is the class I like the most. Her surroundings are familiar, but she hasn't a clue beyond that. The dining room might as well be on Mars. She can navigate from there to her apartment, but only if someone aims her in the right direction and tells her where to go.
"What am I doing now?" always brings an answer and assistance. That's the level of comfort she requires. The woman she used to be would resent the intrusiveness; the woman she is right now smiles and follows. I'm the only one who seems to have issues with it.
I want her to be aggravated that I only stayed for an hour today. I want her to wonder why I didn't call and let her know that I'd returned from my vacation... not because she was lonely, but because she wanted to know that I was safe. I want her to recognize Little Cuter and SIR and Thomas the WonderDog and to revel in the fact of her grand-daughter's newly discovered green thumb. I want her to laugh over the similarities between SIR and his grandfathers-in-law, all three tool-happy-makers-and-fixers.
Time to put the tune on continuous repeat, I think.