Love Re-Written

When I went to visit my mother on her 90th birthday, I found her sitting up in bed looking peacefully out the window. She turned and smiled at me as I crossed the room. I noticed immediately that there was something dramatically different about her. She looked young. Her cheeks were full and pink. Her green eyes seemed to twinkle. Not a line or wrinkle creased her face. She seemed to be in a state of grace.

I kissed her on the cheek and wished her a happy birthday. She told me that she had been waiting for me. I could tell that she was happy to see me. My mother had been happy ever since she told me her secret during our last visit. It appears that my mother had fallen in love a few months ago. She described it as a “May-December” romance and it was a secret. I had to promise that I wouldn’t tell a soul.

The man who my mother had fallen in love with was almost 40 years younger. He worked as a maintenance man at the nursing home, where she had lived for the last five years. To complicate matters, this man was also a relative of the family who owned the facility. My mother said their relationship would be frowned upon by the owners and staff. She wouldn’t even tell me his name.

My mother told me that this was a true love story. It was the kind of love that only comes along once in a lifetime.” She told me that this love affair was so special that I should write about it. She spent the remainder of our visit telling me all about this special man. She talked, I listened. I was happy for her. In real life my mother had not been lucky in love.

As I drove home that night, I made a mental list of all the people who worked at The Pines. I thought I knew most of them. I knew the maintenance man and he was in his 70s and no relation to the owners. It didn’t matter, I knew what would make my mother happy.

I could sense my mother’s impatience as I hung up my coat. When I returned with a vase to put the flowers in, the birthday card was still in her hands unopened. She looked at me with anticipation. I pulled a chair up close to her bed, opened my bag and took out the pages that I had written. My mother had told me the beginning of her story, now I was able to give her an ending:

It was late, almost midnight when he opened the door to her room. She was waiting as planned. She was sitting on the edge of the bed wearing her prettiest dress. She took his hand and they headed for the door. They crept silently down the hallway and out the back door.

Holding her hand tightly in his, he led her into the warm spring night. They headed into the woods, moonlight lighting their way. When they came to the end of the woods they found themselves in a small meadow. My mother walked into the middle of the field and looked up at all the stars in the sky.

As she reached up into the night sky, the stars came down around her, spiraling into twinkling stairs. My mother turned around and looked into the eyes of her true love. Hand in hand, they climbed the stairs to a place where they could be together, forever in love.

The Lunch Date

He asks the hostess for their favorite table. The one off to the side with giant smiling suns carved into the backs of the chairs. She loves this place. Everything is so colorful, like being in the middle of a Mexican fiesta. He helps her with her chair and then sits across from her. He is so tall and rugged, she thinks, so very handsome. She is proud to be with him. A pretty young waitress appears at his side, saying something about being their server and would they like to order drinks.

As she starts to shake her head, no, he pats her hand and says, “Have just one, it won’t hurt.” “Well,” she says, “only one.” It’s the same ritual whenever they come here. She says, “no.” He says, “yes.” She always orders the same drink – the delicious one with salt around the brim and a lime on the side. The waitress leaves to get their drinks. She is happy and nobody else exists, except the two of them. He always makes her feel young, like a teenage girl out on a date. He is the best son ever.

She asks him about work. He asks her if she needs anything. “Where did he get those eyes,” she wonders? “So blue and his hair so thick and curly.” She wonders why he isn’t married. Secretly, she doesn’t mind. For now she doesn’t have to share him.

He asks her what she wants to eat. The same thing as always, she says. He watches as she enjoys her drink. The margarita is in such a tall glass that she practically rises out of her seat to take a sip. He laughs to himself. She was always good to him. After all, she helped him get his first car. He loves his mother very much.

Their meals arrive. He’s already slicing into his chicken burrito. He’s always been a big eater. There was plenty of food in her house. Neither of them wanted for anything. Of course, she couldn’t afford luxuries like the other kids had. It was hard after his father died. She got a job in the shoe factory and they managed to get by. She never remarried. There was one man she did like, but not enough to marry. But, that was a long time ago.

Lunch is almost over. She tries to prolong it. The waitress silently appears and collects the dishes. Yes, they will have another drink. Anything to keep the afternoon from ending, she thinks. He takes her out to eat every three weeks or so. He always comes over if she needs him. He’s very busy, but he always calls her. She never feels easy asking for help. She is lucky to have such a thoughtful son.

He helps her unlock the door. Her trailer is small, but comfortable. He helps her into her favorite chair. The cat jumps up on her lap. He got her a cat so she wouldn’t be alone. She’s sleepy. He leans over and kisses her on the forehead and tells her they’ll do it again real soon. She tells him she loves him as he closes the door. As she starts to nod off, she thinks how lucky she is to have such a good son.

Before my husband’s mother passed away, he would take her out to lunch at her favorite Mexican restaurant. My husband loved his mother very much.

Down the Hall

Her room is the first one on the right. A light above her door blinks, signaling that she needs help. I stop and look down the long gray hall. Rooms of old sick people. I turn into her room.

A tiny woman is sitting up in bed, almost lost in a disarray of blankets and pillows. Her snow white hair is cut short, sticking out at all ends. She finally notices me standing there. “Can you help me get up?” she asks in a small voice.

I help her to the bathroom. She walks hunched over. She can’t be more than five feet tall. When I reach the bathroom door, she firmly tells me that she will take it from there.

I go and ready her chair. I put a blanket over the cold, slippery vinyl. I bring her table with her lotions and hand mirror closer. I see her peeking out the bathroom door and guide her over to the chair. I place a pillow behind her back and wrap a blanket around her shoulders. She smiles up at me. Her ice blue eyes are almost lost in the lines and wrinkles of her face. Her eyes are the color of a northern lake in early dawn. Her eyes twinkle as she thanks me.

“God, how old is she?” I ask myself, as I place her call light next to her. I tell her to press the red button if she needs anything. She asks for the book that she left on the bedside table. We talk awhile about the book and how we both like to read. I turn to go. She opens her book and puts on her glasses.

I return later to change her bed. The book is lying open on her lap, her glasses have slipped down her nose as she naps. All of a sudden she seems so familiar to me. I run my fingers through my own silvery-white hair and think of the book tucked away in my locker. I wish I were somewhere else. I wish I was reading. I quietly go over to her table and pick up her mirror. I see my face so much older now. I look into my own eyes. My eyes use to be blue, now they are more of a hazel and I don’t think they twinkle anymore. I suddenly realize that I do know this woman. I know her as well as I know myself.

Dementia


High tide was on its way in as I walked along the beach. I picked up pieces of sea glass, smooth, white, translucent and oddly shaped.

I remembered the old Jewish woman, whom I walked the beach with. Most of our days began with a walk by the shore and just as many ended there too. Together, we would retrace our steps looking for shells and sea glass.

We walked and talked. Words I will always remember, but words she will always forget.

Down the Road

I am not the only one getting older, my little dog is 11 years old and has become senile. Gigi is a sweet girl and for the most part seems content in her new mind set. What is troubling is that now she has become afraid of what she loves most – car rides.

Normally, my little terrier mix can’t wait to jump in the passenger seat beside me. As we drive down the road, she will settle into this almost zen like trance. Now she can’t jump that high, so I have to lift her in and then she starts trembling for about 30 minutes until she calms down. It breaks my heart to see her lose what she used to look forward to.

She has taken to pacing and walking in circles in the house. Fortunately, she seems happy and content doing so. I does drive me crazy and now she is always underfoot. When we go for our beach walks she does the same thing. She will circle around me. The only time she goes in a straight line is to inspect a clump of seaweed. She loves to stick her nose in the smelly pile and when she is done sniffing, she will christian it. She catches up with me and resumes walking around me in a large circle.

I look down at my little old friend and she looks up at me with bright eyes and wags her tail. We are both happy and enjoying each other’s company walking by the ocean.

Tomorrow she will forget how much she loves to ride in the car and she will tremble and be scared. But then she will remember how great the seaweed smells and how good it feels to pee on it.