What We Leave Behind

senior-clipart-highkicks            To exit the nursing home where my mom lives, I walk from her locked wing, down a long hallway, and through the large dining room. Again that evening there sat another new resident with that face. Nothing shreds my heart quite as much as the face of a care center resident in his or her first days, sitting at a table full of strangers, having a bib fitted around his neck and being lost in the shuffle of mealtime. I cannot imagine the fear, loss, confusion and desperation that these souls must be suffering: some cognizant enough to realize the significance of this step, and some whose memories don’t quite keep up enough for them to grasp it, confused nonetheless.

I recall my own parents and grandmother, and their separate transitions to various facilities. My heart wretched each time I spied that face on my own parents. Guilt, frustration, helplessness set in. Dad was surely suffering the worst loss: his wife had recently died at such a young age, and Alzheimer’s was taking hold. Grandma’s last days were in the same nursing home where my mom is now, and visiting Grandma there was the first time I’d ever been in a nursing home since my candy striper days. After she passed, it took years before I could enter a nursing home again.

It’s easier now, and often a happy place. Shortly before we left for Indonesia Mom, Betty, Barb, Joan, Lanelle, Lyle, Gayle and I had another sing-along. I was on the piano, Mom on the kazoo, Gayle whistling like a bird, Barb stamping her feet, and the others singing the words to oldies, courtesy of memories that reach to a time before their memories played tricks on them. The only thing missing this time was aide Kelly on the tambourine. The reviews are usually great. “Never stop!” Or, “That was fantastic.” Only once did I get, “Will you please turn that thing off?”

I’ve missed this as much as anything else, in our move to Papua. Relatively frequent calls and video chats to Mom in the “home” don’t allow me to play the piano, but provide a comfort for us both. And soon I’ll be back there for a few weeks to get all my hugs and host sing-alongs.