June 16, 2014–”and how are the folks?”

This past week I learned of the deaths of two people that were close to her.  One, Ray Salo in Olmsted Falls, was a childhood friend of my late father.  I have fond memories of him, his wife Tynne, and their boys during my own growing up years.  When Mother and I were in Olmsted in 2006, we stopped in to see them.  Tynne died some months later, but I kept in touch with Ray.  This week I was playing around on Zillow and discovered his house is on the market, part of an estate sale.

Tuesday I got a call from the family of the only friend that was truly hers here in Athens, Mildred Epps.  (as opposed to being one of my friends first)  Mildred had just died at 82. She and Mother used to go out to lunch every month or so.  One of their most frequent pass times was shopping for greeting cards.  Mother couldn’t see well, so Mildred would read card after card until they found the perfect ones for birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

I went to the visitation on Mother’s behalf and told her children the story of how they met.  My parents had lived in St. Charles, MO for five years after selling their house in Olmsted.  They attended St. Charles Christian Church.  One of the church members, Marcia, worked at a local funeral home.

A couple weeks after Mother moved in with me in 2005, a funeral was held for a certain man.  His sister, Mildred, flew to St. Louis to attend.  When she signed the guest book and Marcia saw she was from Athens, GA, she exclaimed (you’d have to have known Marcia to know that “exclaimed” is the right word!), “I have a good friend who just moved to Athens!  You’d love her.  Here’s her daughter’s phone number (mine).”

The rest is history.  Even after Mother became ill, Mildred would send notes and little gifts.

I told Mother about both deaths yesterday.  She didn’t remember Mildred at all, which didn’t surprise me.  She did remember Ray and Tynne.  I thought she was relatively oriented until she asked,

“And how are the folks?  I need to write to them, but I don’t have their address.”

I assured her that her address book was safe in my drawer at home and that the next time I come I’ll bring paper and an envelope and write whatever she wants to say to her mother and grandfather.

Below is a picture of Mildred, left front, at Mother’s 95th birthday party.  RIP, sweet lady.

2010 b'day

Here is Ray playing the organ, using Tynne’s (closed) potty chair as a piano stool!  At 94, he went weekly to a local nursing home to play the piano for the “old folks.”

1. Ray at the organ 1

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June 6, 2014–from her friend, Al

It was a gorgeous day, so I trundled Esther out to get some sunshine, gave her some little yellow butterworts or maybe yarrow, whatever, and sat on a bench near her to talk. She thinks I am somebody who worked for “Wortham” or something like that. (NB:  “Worthingtons,” where several of her relatives worked)

Esther enjoyed the sun, but it got too hot after about 10 minutes so we finished our talk on the outside front porch. We were discussing why so many people won’t visit nursing homes. She bought the idea that lots live far away, or relatives have died. Others just don’t come, she said.  “They don’t come because they are afraid of death,” she explained. Sharp lady! It’s not that they can’t stand to see their relatives or friends in the nursing home as much as the whole things hits their own mortality very hard.  I have always said people don’t like funerals and they mourn–their own forthcoming deaths. They probably see themselves imprisoned in nursing homes as well.

We had a good talk today. She is looking well and repeated her philosophy of “It is what it is.” We talked about the fact as we age we find we can do less and less, having to give up many things we once enjoyed. But somewhere she has gotten a strong faith that she doesn’t control things and lets God do it.  I think I profited more from our talk than she did. But, as always, she was glad to see somebody, even if she can’t remember even the next minute who they are. I felt good about the visit. She is something dear and special.

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May 18, 2014–talent show

Last Thursday was the annual family picnic at Quiet Oaks.  The evening started with a talent show put on by the residents.  Several ladies read parts of the slightly off-color “Alphabet of Aging” (google it), and a small group put on hats and followed the Events Coordinator as she led them in chair exercises to a jazzy tune.  One gal, not in a wheelchair, really got her groove on and had us all hooting with laughter!

There were a couple of singers–uniformly bad, but “A’s” for effort.  One was Mother, who sang a duet with the social worker, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”  I tried to take a video but have not figured out the upgraded OS for my iPhone and totally botched it.  Below are two fuzzy pics–one of them singing, and the second of her basking in the applause afterwards.

During supper (which she thoroughly enjoyed), she asked “Did Mom make it here?”

“No, I haven’t seen her.”

We went outside to listen to a band made up of old codgers (my age) playing pop and country with the volume turned up so loud I lasted only a few minutes.  I don’t understand why that seems so “necessary” or how people can stand it.  We left, and I wheeled her around the grounds as it was getting toward dusk.

“Do you want to sit over here (a ways away) and listen to the music, or are you ready for bed?”  For the third or fourth time she told me she couldn’t go to bed because she had promised two different men she would sing with them for some sort of program and she couldn’t miss it.

“But you already sang, and you were wonderful!”

“I did?  Did Mom hear?”

She’s still 16 and misses her Mama.

singing with Chris


she was a big hit!

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May 11, 2014–”Mom was here”

Mother’s Day and she was happy.  She said her mom lived very far away, but a few days ago someone had given her a ride over here and they had had a nice chat.  We could not go to her room to put away more summer clothes because her ride was coming to take her home.  They wouldn’t know where to find her if she left the dining room.

Oh, and it was really nice that I could come see her, too.  It was the second time she had told me “Mom and your dad were involved in a painting project.”  Furniture?  Walls?  She couldn’t remember.  My dad?  Uh, who am I again?

“Oh, right, you’re Tina, not Phyllis.”  But she couldn’t seem to wrap her mind around the generational entanglement.

I said I’d tell the nurses where we were so she wouldn’t miss her ride.  In a few minutes, she had forgotten all about it.

It didn’t matter.  She and her mom had had a nice chat.  Happy Mother’s Day.


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May 9, 2014–note to me from our friend, Al

I did get to see Esther this morning and found her more coherent than usual. She talked quite a bit and could seem to keep track of what was said. She seems able to hear me reasonably well if we sit close together and I talk loudly.  As I drove up, a bus was loading a bunch of school kids who had been visiting Quiet Oaks. Quite a few of the residents were still sitting in a circle in the dining room when I got there about 11 a.m. Your mother said that the kids were nice to visit and that a few of them sang songs. Your mother was singing one of her old songs, and I could recognize the tune but not the name. She said she couldn’t remember the name but said: “Tina will know what the name is.” So you aren’t Phyllis today–at least as far as remembering old song titles!

All the rest of the ladies (and a man or two) were asleep, but your mother was merrily and happily singing to herself when I arrived. We went out to the foyer and talked. She seemed much more interested in talking than usual. I told her that her jasper clock she made* is still ticking away and that so is Esther.  She thought that was funny, but did remember hunting for rocks and that some rocks wouldn’t take a polish and other kinds would. That seems to have been a part of her life she enjoyed a lot. She did mention her mother hadn’t been around very much lately but that she would be back.

Well, that’s the report. I think she is doing very well and looks good

*(Mother gave Al one of the clocks she made several years ago.  He has been so faithful and kind in visiting her, it was her way of saying thank you, back before her memory started to fail so badly.)

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May 4, 2014–no singing!

Maybe it’s because I was visiting just after lunch.  The fact that I remembered her hearing aid helped, too, I’m sure.  She was calm, alert and more responsive than usual.  We were sitting on the front porch as several families brought their QO residents out in wheelchairs.  We chatted, I got their names, and introduced them to Esther.  She seemed to enjoy meeting so many new people.  With each, I explained that she is blind, so when she doesn’t speak to them it’s because she doesn’t know they are there.

I reminded her that she used to like to do exercises.  She was quite willing to have me put her through her “paces”–lift each leg straight out from the knee, each forearm  straight up from the elbow, turn her head from side to side as far as she could.  It was interesting that she could turn much further to the left than to the right.

As I wheeled her around the parking lot and sidewalks, she said, “It’s good that you can come to visit.  Mom’s eyes are getting so bad it’s hard for her to get out.”

“Oh, when did her eyes start going bad?”

“I can’t remember, it’s been coming on for some time.”

It is the first time (I think) I remember her talking about her mother having poor vision.  She didn’t seem upset today, just matter-of-fact.  We take what we can get, I suppose.




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April 28, 2014–”Why WON’T you go see Mom? (sob)”

Gorgeous day today.  When I approached her, sitting there in her wheelchair in the dining room, she was having a enthusiastic, one-side conversation with an unseen audience.    It took a couple of tries, but she finally seemed to know who I was, and was delighted to have the dogs jump into her lap.  I don’t know why they like riding in her chair, but they certainly do.

I wheeled her down to her room to drop off her summer clothes, then we went outside.

I told her about the events of my week, including the death of my friend’s much loved long time friend.  She was sincerely and properly sympathetic, but of course forgot all about it within minutes.

She kept asking about her mother.

“Have you seen Mom?  Did you drive here?  Will you see her before you leave this part of the state?  Can you call her for me?  I meant to write her a note, can you do that for  me?”

I hedged and fudged as much as possible, then finally, “Mother, your mom died before I was born.  I never met her.”

“No!  She keeps asking about you all the time.  I know she’d like to hear from you.”

What to do?  I said I was certain her mom and I would have loved each other very much.  Tears came to her eyes.  She didn’t understand.  I was much older than she.  Why couldn’t I help?

Who was I?  Phyllis? Oh, no, that’s right, I call her “Mother.”  That means I have to be younger than she is.  What year is it?  1998?  But what happened to all the years between then and now?  And why wouldn’t  I contact her mother?

We sang.  Easter Parade. Oh, Susannah.  Yankee Doodle.  Camptown Races. Amazing Grace.  She finally let got of Bicycle Built for Two long enough to fixate on Amazing Grace.  She couldn’t remember the words, but giggled when she messed up the tune:  “I botched that bit up, didn’t I?”  We both laughed.

“Mom is so glad you can come see me, even if she can’t.  I’ll tell her you were here.”

Hug and kiss.  Yes, please do, Mother.  We’d both like that.

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