This series of reprinted posts is a tribute to my mother, Esther Tamara Rukasin Annis, who died on December 5, 2013.
Fresh posts will resume sometime soon. For now, I hope you'll spend the time with us as we remember our mom.
G'ma and I went bowling with the Happy Ladies Club yesterday.
When I stopped by the pod-castle just after 9am, she was curled up snug as a bug in a rug in her comforter. Without her glasses on, she could only see my outline until I bent down to kiss her hello. I guess the caregivers don't include that service in their daily rounds, because she knew it was I, even with her eyes closed. I do love having a mother around.
I'd come to remind her that I'd be back at 11:30 to collect her for lunch. As she sank deeper into her blankets to resume the sleep I'd so rudely interrupted, I left with little confidence that she'd remember to get up and get ready. I backtracked and left her a written reminder on the seat of her walker. I do wish my mother could remember her itinerary on her own.
But later, when I knocked and then opened her door, her fully clothed, ready and waiting self greeted me with a smile and a laughing remonstrance: "It's 11:31. I've been waiting." So much for worrying. As always, when something involving her children had to be done and done right, G'ma never missed a beat. I do love having a mother around.
We shared a caesar salad and a chicken-pesto-shaved romano thin but really tasty crust pizza and had leftovers for the newspaper seller in the intersection. The wait staff flirted with her and she did her cute little old lady thing and everyone told her how adorable she was. In the past, this would have set her teeth on edge; adorablewas never something to which she aspired. Intelligent or competent perhaps, if she were to allow any complimenting at all. When asked about her reluctance to accept the nice words thrown her way, she reflected on her parents' Socialism and their constant reminders that, despite her A+ report cards and perfect Shirley Temple ringlets, she was no better than anyone else. Every once in a while whole relevant memories like these spring to the part of her brain that's remembering at the moment and she tells me stories I've never heard before, with emotions she's never shown before. I miss the old G'ma, but I do love having this version of my mother around.
We had some extra time ("To go with the extra food," according to G'ma) so we went shopping for the essentials : chocolate and Fixodent. Such is the 9th decade of life. On the theory that you can never over-pay your caregivers but knowing that they cannot accept gratuities other than food stuffs, this just had to be purchased for them as a Thanksgiving Thank You:Of course, G'ma kept forgetting that the sampler wasn't for her. "This is an awfully big box, don't you think?" I smiled to myself everytime I reminded her that it was for the helpers at the pod-castle. I do so love having my mother around.
(The apple is there to demonstrate just how big this box really is.... we stopped traffic in the aisles of Walgreens as we carted it to the cashier.)
She kibbitzed while we bowled, and supervised the opening and en-bowling of the Hershey's Kisses and plain M&M's once we got back to her suite and I watched in astonishment as the stream of visitors began. The word had gone out that G'ma had new chocolate and before I could unwrap the mini-Hershey bars (milk chocolate and she doesn't care if dark is better for you because she likes milk chocolate and you don't want to get between G'ma and her chocolate if you know what's good for you) three different people had dropped by for a sample. G'ma was the gracious hostess, circa Jewish-mother-1955: "Please, take another. Don't be so stingy with yourself." If it takes chocolate to bring the party to her room, she'll never be without. I love that they love having my mother around.
A truth (after all, the Burrow's masthead promises them....) that surprises me is the equanimity with which I am now able to accept the-woman-who-is-inhabiting-my-mother's-body as Mommy. I have given up trying to re-make her into her old self. Age and a hospitalization gone awry have robbed her of the capacity to retrieve newly received information. To say that she can't remember, though, seems to imply that she has the capacity to create and store the information. I try to pry this mystery apart with her every once in a while, but she really can't give shape to the situation. And so I let it be, and go with the flow, and chill out and somehow I've gotten to a place of not worrying. She's happy and living with people who like her and she returns the favor and what more could I ask?
I do so love having my mother around.
(First published November 18, 2009)