Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Don't We Have Fun?


My days are Tuesdays and Thursdays. Those are the ones that are set in stone. I don't miss those days. Then on the weekends I add either Saturday or Sunday, depending on our schedule as a family. Either way, three times a week, I drive to Irving to visit my dad at the skilled nursing facility. Some days it is a struggle to get into my car and make the 40 minute drive. I miss out on tucking my son into bed, or I end up getting home way past time to start dinner, depending on the day and my visiting time. Sometimes I am just plain tired, and I don't feel like doing anything at all. But I am always glad once I go. I am always glad to get to spend time with my dad, even in this current situation. Some days I take my guitar. I play him songs that I have spent my life hearing him sing. I take my Bible, and I read to him. Occasionally, I take my worn copy of My Utmost for His Highest, given to me by Mr. Tant, my high school math and science teacher. I sometimes have to read those twice, just to be sure I am getting it. But I take advantage of the fact that my dad is still living. He is still with us. It may not look the way we want it to look, but he is still here. There is so much for which I am grateful.

Several months ago, I met Ms. Bonnie*. She regularly sits in a wheelchair in the lobby, and she always calls out to Jude, who promptly runs the other direction. I usually pick him up and walk over to her. He is good at high fives, and she is content with that, even though she always asks for hugs. So I started stopping by to visit Ms. Bonnie even on the days when she wasn't out in the lobby in her wheelchair. I found her room, and there is rarely a visit where I don't see her. 

But one day, last month, Ms. Bonnie was resting. So I peeked behind the roommate curtain to say hello to her neighbor, and I met Ms. Carla. Carla was holding a baby doll, patting its bottom the way a mother does when she is trying to soothe a baby to sleep. She was talking out loud. To no one. And about nothing, I soon realized. 

Carla has dementia. It didn't take long to realize that. Most of the time she is talkative, but most of the sentences she puts together make no sense at all. Sometimes she struggles to find the right words to use, and other times she is happily oblivious to the fact that she is not forming understandable sentences. But she is cheery, and she greets me with a smile, even though I am a stranger. I have a feeling that everyone is a stranger to her these days. So we pretend like we are old friends.

Now we make it a point to go see them both. Bonnie is quite the napper, a woman after my own heart, and so, most often, it is Carla we see. She can almost always be found in her bed, holding a baby. She squeals with delight when I bring Jude to see her. She asks for a kiss, but like Bonnie, she settles for handshakes. When we leave, she always calls out "I love you!". We always tell her we love her back. Because everyone deserves to hear that.

Last night I went to visit my dad, right on schedule. During a time when a nurse was tending to him, I slipped out of his room and headed down the hall to say hello to my two favorite ladies. Bonnie was sleeping, just as I figured she would be. But Carla was lying in bed, watching music videos on BET, patting her baby's bottom like a good mama should. 

Is this a channel that you like?

She responded with words that didn't make sense, but her tone and facial expressions communicated that she was just fine with BET. I have a feeling in her regular life, she was not a BET watcher.

I asked about her baby, as I always do, and she told me that baby Addie slept in the morning but not the rest of the day. I asked her how she herself was doing, and she told me stories. Long stories. Stories that I couldn't decipher the details of, but I knew when to act surprised and when to laugh. I am positive that she was a character before her mind betrayed her.

I picked up a framed picture from her dresser. It was a younger Carla, probably 20 years ago. She is dressed in black dress pants and a holiday sweater. Her gray hair is perfectly sprayed in place, and she looks very classy. She is sitting on the stairs of a house next to a blonde little boy, probably 8 years old. She looks really happy. I asked her about the picture, and she couldn't tell me who anyone was. I told her that she looked beautiful in the picture, and she understood. She looked kind of embarrassed and flicked her hand at me, as if to shoo away the compliment. 

She looked sad when I told her that I had to leave. I told her I was going home, and she wanted to know where home was. I told her I lived in Fort Worth, and she said "I knew it was somewhere in that vicinity," which was the most coherent thing she had said all night. 

"I just wanted to check in and see how you were doing", I said.

She picked up baby Addie, looked her straight in the eye, and said "Oh, we always have fun. Don't we have fun?" 

And she kissed that plastic baby on the forehead twice before laying her back down on her chest. 

And the way I see it, if sweet Ms. Carla can find that kind of joy in the middle of her hardship, then so can I.

As I walked out the door of her room, she called out one last "I love you". 

I love you, too, Carla. Love you, too.



*I have changed Bonnie and Carla's names to protect their privacy. Because that's the nice thing to do.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...