When I arrived at the nurses' station to pick up my mother to take her for her smoke, I noticed her coming up the long hall to greet me carrying a white purse I had never seen before. Crooked over her left arm like the Kelly bag she had in the l950s I puzzled as to this new white one’s origin.
As she approached closer, now ten feet away, I took another look. It was her catheter bag. Slung elegantly over her arm she said, “…this way you can’t see my pee…"
Dressed in her pink and grey ankle argyle socks - matching incongruously with her black patent sling backs - she sat in the lounge chair ankles crossed in a demure side angle.
Trudy, or The Trudester as I am apt to call her, has adapted to her surroundings in this care facility like a fairy princess discovering her castle. She is cared for here, she gets lots of attention, she’s fed three squares, she gets a peanut butter sandwich and hot chocolate situation every night before going to bed. She is genuinely liked and even adored by the staﬀ of care givers because she is always pleasant.
Totally in charge of herself as much as she can be, my mother knows exactly who she is and she is exactly the kind of person who refuses to get weepy with self pity about being eighty-eight years old. “I feel great,” the says, “…I’m 90 years old and I don’t feel my age.”
“…That’s because you are only eighty-eight...” I say semi-sarcastically. She gets it, and laughs. “What are you going to do with me. throw me in the garbage!”
When I talk to my gal pal at the Haro ‘Campus of Care’ whose mother has been through six incarnations of directors; we share insights about how dementia can change people. Some people change for the ‘best’- as odd as that might sound. And who would believe it, or even want to?
We live in a ‘fear-for the-worst’ kind of mentality, brutalized as we are with a constant bombardment of repetitive techno-stimuli. So, who could believe anything good about dementia?
I’m elated. This is not the frantic, chaotic mother I grew up with. This is the older, wiser more sedate and seasoned woman I would like to be when I am at her age.
The kind of woman who can think enough of her vanity to turn a catheter bag into a new purse as she glides down the hall.