Monday, July 16, 2012

Visiting My Mother

I drove up on Monday morning, leaving home at 7:30am, stopping once to drive through Burger King for breakfast and once to get gas and pee. At 4:00, 500 miles later, I arrived and checked into my room.

Except this time the managers put me in a 2 bedroom 2 bath "show" apartment, which was much nicer than the guest apartment, and closer to Mom.  I really don't mind staying in the little guest room, which is just one small room with a mini-refrigerator and a tv and a bed and a chair (well, and a bathroom), but having room to walk around in was a lot more comfortable. Having a big flat-screen HDTV and a couch to sit on and a kitchenette and a balcony overlooking the magnolia trees was way better.

Fancy living room

Fancy bedroom which is in fact nowhere near a sea

Mom and I always go to the IHOP to have breakfast for dinner the evening I arrive, it's our ritual.  She always gets the Senior Rooty, with blueberries or strawberries on her pancakes.  I always get the 2x2x2, which is 2 eggs, 2 pancakes and 2 pieces of bacon.  We always get the Splashberry drinks, which are Sprite, orange juice, and strawberries.  For some reason Mom always eats pretty much everything on her plate at IHOP.

Why even look at the menu, really?

Afterwards we hang out in her apartment, she gives me the stack of things she has been saving for me (interesting articles from our local paper in VA, letters and cards that she's gotten, and magazine articles about eating healthy and finding a job), and we watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.  She has turned on the closed-captioning and doesn't use the sound at all any more.

Mom's hearing is not great.  She has hearing loss and has a hearing aid, but she also has nerve damage that distorts sound.  The doctor says it won't get worse, but there's nothing to do to help it, either.  The past time or two that I've visited I've noticed that Mom doesn't drag me all over the retirement home to introduce me to people like she used to, and I think it's because she is afraid that she won't be able to understand them.

At this point, there are plenty of people there who know me.  When Rhea, the manager, walked me down the hall to my room I ran into Paul; he lives across the hall from Mom. He's from Florida, so we have that in common.  "How are things down in Orlando?" he called when he saw me coming.  "Too hot, like everywhere else," I answered.

My fancy 2 bedroom apartment was right next door to Dee.  Dee is still very mobile for her age, tall and slender with curly white hair, and she's always dressed well.  Dee has breakfast with Mom every morning, and sometimes sits with her at lunch, depending on who else is there.  Dee doesn't come down to dinner, though, because she eats in her apartment with her boyfriend from down the hall.

Mom typically has lunch with Wilma and Mickie, who are her two closest friends.  Wilma is a lovely woman with painted nails and pretty jewelry, who flirts with the waiters in the dining room.  I won't say she flirts with every man, because I wouldn't want to hurt Greg's feelings.  She always asks about Greg and talks about how she's looking forward to seeing him again.

I think some women, regardless of age, just have a flirt gene.  I am not one of those women.

Mickie is very, very sweet.  She walks with a walker, and she is always smiling.  When I visited in March, Mickie gave me a birthday card, and signed it Your Mother's Friend.  When I sit in the dining room with them, I always try to put my back to the room so Mom and Mickie can watch everyone coming in, see who sits where, and discuss what's been going on with whom.

At some point I always run into Connie, either in the lobby or the dining room or the elevator.  She's a friendly Southern lady and always gives me a big hug.

On Tuesday Mom and I met my sister Mary and my niece Susan at Red Lobster for lunch.  I try to include Mom in the conversation, but I know she misses as much as she hears.  She says she hears enough, and she seems to enjoy herself.  She feels overwhelmed by all the food, though, and is only happy if someone will split a meal with her, because she thinks it's just too much.  I split lunch with her this time, sharing a salad, shrimp scampi, and broccoli.  There is always a small argument over how much goes on my plate and how much goes on hers.
Yes, have another biscuit!

On Wednesday I took Mom to Belks to try to find a blouse.  She can get along pretty well in a store with her walker, but we ended up having to walk too much this time, and she didn't find anything she liked so it felt like a waste of time.  Then the two of us went back to Red Lobster.  She likes it and she's comfortable there, so it's certainly fine with me.  This time we split a fish and chips lunch, and it was surprisingly good.

Each afternoon I would leave Mom alone to rest a while.  There was no wifi in the retirement home this time, the person from whom I usually steal it is farther away from the fancy apartment so I couldn't get it.  But I had my computer, and my Kindle, and the fancy TV, so it was relaxing for me, too.

Hanging out in my Gryffindor t-shirt, taking an iPhone pic of myself blowing a kiss to Greg

On Tuesday and Wednesday we had dinner in the dining room with Mickie and Wilma, and afterwards we watched TV and looked at pictures and talked about people back home.

We went back to IHOP, for actual breakfast this time, on Thursday morning.  We got the same things, though, without bothering with menus.  I was on the road headed south at 9:30am and drove up to my house at 5:00pm, literally just a moment before Greg pulled up.

I miss her already.  I remember the first time that Greg and I drove Mom and Dad up there and helped them move in, and I cried as we drove away.  Now, I don't usually cry, I just settle in for my long boring drive, feeling sad.  I feel sad and think about Mom until around Macon, which is about 2 hours.  Then after the Macon bypass I get on 75, the highway that'll take me into mid-Florida, and I start thinking about home.