For some reason I don’t remember now, I was unable to visit Mom on the last day of July 2016, which made me even more anxious to see her on August 1, which was a Monday.
“Hello my darling mother,” I said to her as soon as I found her reclining (surprise, surprise) on the second-floor sunporch. She was awake, and alert. “I’m so happy to see you,” I said, and I gave her a big kiss.
She said she was feeling good, even very good, and yes, she would like to go for a cup of tea. I wheeled her to the elevator, and we made our way to the ground floor, Mom sharing her aphasic thoughts along the way.
Afternoon tea had been our almost-daily ritual for the previous three years, particularly over the previous 15 months during which the times I could visit had been restricted to a couple of hours in the afternoon. So Mom knew the routine, and routine can be a good thing if it’s not rigidly adhered to for the sake of itself or convenience.
When we got downstairs, I asked Mom if she might like to sing a song, “I have two songs,” she said. She actually knew hundreds. Literally. “I bet I know one of them,” I said. I began to sing “When you wore a tulip.” She immediately joined in.
Then I asked if she would like some tea, and we both laughed at the evolution of her reply:
Orchestrating the drinking of our tea took some coordination, given that Mom was right handed and could no longer use her right hand because of her broken arm. There was no question of her holding a cup or mug, and being able to drink from it. I had to lift the cup to her mouth so she could sip the liquid from it. One of the highlights of our “tea parties” was the cookies. Mom had a sweet tooth. Always had. Hard candies, soft candies, cakes, pies, ice cream – she loved them all. I wondered if she might be able to eat a cookie with her left hand? She answered in no uncertain terms!
Mom’s confidence was not a new character trait. She’d always believed she could do pretty much anything, and she pretty much could and did. But sometimes the execution proved more challenging than she had anticipated, as it was that day with the left-handed “degustation” of the cookie. But she never gave up. Ever.
We spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with Mom’s friend Shirley about the weather and other important things such as how long it would take for Mom’s broken arm to heal (Shirley had been a nurse in her youth). We drank more tea, ate ginger snap cookies that Shirley had brought (as usual and yum!), and sang more songs like this one:
It was a good day. A very good day. All things considered.
Do you have a family member, friend, or someone you know in long-term care? Have you seen neglect and abuse firsthand? If so, please speak out against these human rights violations, and find ways to create joy amidst the tragedy.
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