Remind Me

SeasonsMildred’s eyes lit up when I approached her table at the dining room and I patted her hand.

“It’s so good to see you,” I said. Mildred had just transferred from an assisted-living facility to the nursing home. Now she wore an oxygen tube blowing air into her nose with a tank hooked to her wheelchair.

She gave me her familiar broad smile. “It’s good to see you, too. You’ll have to remind me of your name.”

I had lead a devotional class at her assisted-living home for several years and Mildred never missed.

“I look forward to this every week,” she’d told me more than once. She always made good comments, recalling stories from her youth and sermons from her pastor.

I hadn’t been to her facility in several months and she had re-entered my life at the nursing home where I visited.

“Remember me from the Cedars?” I asked. “I used to see you every week there.”

“Oh?” Her eyes searched my face and I could see her mind trying to make connections. “My memory isn’t as good as it used to be.”

But her smile was still good.

Whenever I see Mildred, I always touch her hand. “It’s so good to see you,” I tell her.

And she always responds, “It’s so good to see you, too. You’ll have to remind me of your name.”

And I always do.

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Leading the way

SeasonsElinore pushed her walker to the table and slowly settled into one of the chairs. “So, are we playing cards or dominos?”

Then she turned her attention to me. “Are you going to join us?”

“I’ll watch.”

Elinore nodded and picked up the cards. “I’ve been here for over a year now.”

Here was the long-term care facility where we sat and I was a visitor dragging my feet to walk through the doors.

“I put myself in,” Elinore said. “I had fallen again, in my apartment, and came in for a couple of months. For therapy. Then I went back to my apartment and I fell again. That was enough for me. I decided I’d rather live here.”

Rather? I leaned forward. “So you left your own apartment?”

“Oh, yeah,” she said, sliding the deck of cards against the card shuffler so she could pick them up. “I just couldn’t be falling all the time. They cook for me here. And they have a lot of things going on.”

I wasn’t sure I approved.

“Don!” She pointed the top of her head at an elderly man shuffling past the table. “Don, you should join us. You like cards, don’t you?”

Don ignored her but Elinore didn’t stop. “Oh, come on, Don. This would be good for you.”

He stopped, raised his eyes to meet hers, and then grunted. “Ok.”

“So, Don, did your daughter come today?” Elinore said.

Don shook his head.

“Well, that’s a shame. But you can have some fun with us.” She dropped the cards in the shuffler and pushed the button. “I can’t shuffle anymore.”

Shortly, she had invited Clara and Martha to join her, too.

They were still playing cards an hour later when I left. As I stood, the four wished me a good evening.

These residents found a way to care for one another and Elinore led the way.

Calling

SeasonsHarry dialed his son. “The neighbors came over to scoop off the front walk.”

His son, Dean,  lived across town and hadn’t made it out yet. “Oh, good. Thanks, Dad.”

“Just wanted you to know.” Harry hung up. Within minutes, Dean got another call. This one was from his sister.

“Dad says you didn’t scoop off the front walk.”

“Well, the neighbors did it. When did he call you?”

“Just now.”

Dean calculated. His father must have immediately dialed his sister after calling Dean. In fact, while Dean talked to Sharon, his phone buzzed with a new call. It was Harry.

“I better see what Dad needs now,” Harry told Sharon and switched the call to his father.

“Yeah, Dean, I wanted you to know that the neighbors also scraped off our windshield. But I don’t think we’re going to church anyway. It’s cold, you know. I just wanted you to know.”

Harry could no longer scoop snow or carry out his own trash but he could dial his phone. His children had given him a cell phone and it proved to be Harry’s new hobby.

He called all his children regularly and passed on news from one to another.  Harvesting news and passing it on the the rest of the family became his daily goal.

Harry had a new purpose and it involved his favorite people: his family.

Vaulting new fences

SeasonsMy dad once rescued an angry mama cow by luring her into a runway where she thought she could mash him flat as a Gumby toy. He let her stay close to his heels until he reached the door into the barn.

Then he grabbed a fencepost and vaulted onto the top railing while the cow’s momentum carried her into the stall where she could tend her newborn calf sheltered from the blizzard outside.

That memory of a lithe and strong man of resource has held firm in my mind as I watched his abilities wither along with his body.

The family woke up to Dad’s challenges when he set his pickup engine on fire. Dad was a master mechanic and even in his 80s he wasn’t afraid to crawl under the hood and adjust a carburetor.

Something went wrong. Something that wouldn’t have gone wrong 10 years before.

The fire scorched the pickup engine and underside of the hood.

Dad was nearly in tears for his clumsy mistake.

We were nearly in tears at the thought of a fire stealing him away from us.

We could have grounded him, taking away his vehicles and finding ways to keep him tethered to a recliner and television.

We didn’t.

We became very interested in his projects. We hung out with him as often as we could, turning a wrench when he started a repair. We listened when he discussed maintenance.

Just like Dad had rescued that angry cow even though she didn’t know it, we had to do the same for Dad.

He’d taught us to solve problems creatively. If he could vault the fence to save a cow, we searched for ways to save him from himself.

Warm striped ones

SeasonsDella had positioned her wheelchair near the front door of the nursing home, searching each face that entered until her son finally made his way into the lobby.

“Bobby!” She grabbed the wheel of her chair and propelled herself into his path. “We need to talk.”

Bobby stopped in mid stride. “Uh, OK, Mom. Is there a problem today?”

He stopped by every day on his lunch hour and he kept up on her issues and conditions.

“We need to talk.”

He pushed her wheelchair to another room for some privacy and settled on a chair in front of her. “So what’s up?”

“Do I have any money?” Della leaned forward, her eyebrows bent.

“Yes. Dad made some good investments over the years. You’re doing OK.”

Della nodded. “Can I afford some new socks?”

Bobby glanced down at her feet, clad in fuzzy purple socks. “Do you need socks?”

“I don’t have any that fit. But if we can’t afford it, I can wait.”

His mother had once been the queen of proportion. Socks, once upon a time, barely registered on her concern meter. Things had changed.

But if socks were important to his mother, they were important to Bobby. He ventured into the sock aisle to scout out the selection. Maybe warm striped ones this time.

Marching on

SeasonsThe woman’s voice was urgent. “Your mother’s levels are too high and she needs shots to prevent blood clots. I’ve ordered the medication already.”

Jenny’s phone felt like a brick in her hand. She didn’t understand most of the words the woman spoke. Medical terms that meant little.

But what landed was the next instruction. “You’ll give her injections every day for two weeks and then we’ll test her blood again. When can you pick up the prescription?”

Injections? Blood tests? She would give the injections?

“We need to get this started today.” The woman on the phone added some instructions for the injections. Jenny’s mind caught half of the instructions because injections kept ricocheting in her brain.

“Call me if you have any questions,” the woman said. And then she was gone and Jenny had only the ricochets to deal with.

Two hours later, Jenny held the package of syringes in her hands. She pulled one out, an odd little  combo with a spring in the middle of the syringe.

“I am supposed to inject this right into your tummy,” Jenny said. Her mother studied the apparatus.

“Well, let’s get it done, then.”

Tears prickled in Jenny’s eyes. Her mother lay on the bed, her stomach exposed. Her skin was soft and thin around her belly button.

“I’m so sorry. I don’t want to do this.”

“Oh, you’ll do fine. Just go.”

Jenny’s arm seemed heavy. She took a deep breath. Fourteen of these to give her mother?

She pressed the needle against skin and the syringe seemed to gain a life of its own, injecting and popping away in an instant.

“All right,” her mother said. “Got that done for today. Let’s go get some dinner started.”

“I’m so sorry, Mom.”

“Well, you do what you have to do.”

As Jenny helped her mother to the kitchen, she knew that that’s exactly what they had just done. But that didn’t make it easy.

They marched on.

A dollhouse of tears

SeasonsIra shifted the tools in his  box, sorting the pliers by length and putting the wrenches in order by size.

“Hey, Dad, what are you doing?” His daughter settled into a chair beside him and leaned over the table.

“Just getting organized,” he said.

“I had an idea for you,” Cheryl said. She pulled a big box onto the table and lifted the lid. “Justin got this but he’s never finished it. I thought you might like to give it a try.”

Cheryl pulled the framework for a dollhouse from the box and set it on the table. Then she lifted assorted pieces and parts. “Would you like to build this dollhouse?”

“Sure,” Ira said. “I can do that.” He’d rebuilt engines and problem-solved his way through a a balky hay swather. He’d kept all his machines running for his whole life. He’d done most of the finish work on their new home he’d put up years ago. A dollhouse was no problem.

But his hands trembled as he picked up the tiny pieces. Where was this rod supposed to go? Were there pieces for the roof? He saw the instruction sheet but the words just swam before his eyes.

He pushed a wooden block against round edge. It looked like trim but it didn’t fit right.

And where was this flat piece of wood supposed to go? On the roof? On the front step? Was there a front step?pliers

Ira pushed the pieces away from him. He saw his tools in the box, neatly ordered. He closed the lid of the toolbox. “Take this to Justin. I can’t do this anymore. I’m so sorry.”

Cheryl hugged him. “I’m sorry, too, Dad. I thought you’d enjoy this but it’s not important.”

He cried that day. So did Cheryl.

Some chapters close hard.