The Heart of Love
I’m a senior soul, living in an old folks home as a resident, looking outdoors and saluting our flag. Old Glory is a beautiful and beholding sight for my tired eyes, as I push my wheelchair around to get a closer look. The American stars and stripes have added vibrant colors to my life. I know I’d be far less sane, were it not for being born in the USA.
In my place of residency, growing old isn’t a tell tale of chatter and gossip among quiet knitters. It’s a lot of mumbo-jumbo mixed into a confusing language that I can’t always decipher. We are fourteen men and women, living in one of eight cottages, waiting for yesterday to come.
Mrs. Paula, my neighbor from across the hall, zigzags through time like a runaway train that can’t find its way to the sation. Everyday, I can count on her to be asking for directions to her childhood home.
“Have you seen my parents?”
“No, Mrs. Paula. I can’t say that I have.”
“Well, if you see them, will you tell them that I’m looking for them?”
Like 89-year old Mrs. P., I, too, don’t always remember that my Mama and Papa were promoted to heaven years ago. I’m very much a scavenger on the hunt for something tangible to hold. It’s as though I’m rummaging through the old attics and looking for the perfect picture of my past. It’s the snapshot I see when I think I’m 7-years old again.
Deborah Lane, a 43-year old Nurse with amber eyes, coddles me with kind talk as I spy on her intentions. She, too, is an eavesdropper though, snooping in on my private feelings and offering tea to drink. Am I excited about my daughter coming to visit this morning? Do I think Carol will take me for another walk around the cottages?
If I give in, Tuesday can be like a tempest and a vagabond gypsy, turning the cards over and dealing the Joker. It’s not that I’m not keen on having visitors or that I take a disliking to Carol. As far as I’m concerned, Carol is more than the 67-year old woman who calls me “mom” when I am confused. I think she’s a friendly sort and I am quite fond of her.
I smile. “Well, hello there Denise,” I say, as she wheels me into my room to brush my hair, “It’s so good to see you today.”
“No mother, I’m not Denise. Denise is your youngest daughter’s name. I’m your oldest girl, Carol.”
I find it hard to believe the dementia I suffer from will ever dismantled the bridge from here to healthy happiness. I simply refuse to isolate and walk alone. If anything, I hold a hand out to my grown “kids,” praying they understand my illness.
Belief is the conviction of my spirit when an ever tiny light flickers in the rain. My aging is like an umbrella that opens and closes in the winds of time. I’m a frail old gal, standing under the bumbershoot, and my loved ones keep me from shivering in mental decay. To look into my hazel eyes, is to see my neediness and longing to be well.
Every day I live leaves a trail of dust in my memory bank that I can’t shake off. I guess you could say I’m not well polished in my thinking. I’m an 86-year old lady, turning into a helpless child, and caught up in a storm that rages within. Quite frankly, I find it hard to believe I’ve lived to senior citizenship.
“Valerie,” I hear my name called, as my daughter rushes in and answers for me. She comforts me, though I’m still uncertain who she is.
“My mom’s in her room with me, Deborah.” She says.
I’m thinking my stranger-friend daughter is a spitten image of my mother. She agrees with me when I tell her so. Though my eyes light up when Nurse Deborah invites us to play bingo, I hesitate. It’s up to me, I’m told.
I decline. I’m not made for matching numbers and winning a prize today.
Actually, I have just now remembered that my husband’s bus is coming. Valetta, my first cousin, and her mother, Penny, are with him today. These lovely angels have traveled nine-hundred miles to pick me up and take me out of the facility.
“Help me pack up,” I snap, as Carol’s blue eyes fill with tears and she hugs me forever. I notice her brown hair is predominantly gray now and that she’s stuttering a bit. There she is, bellowing in a voice of frustration as I cry out for my husband . The gray clouds are building up and I keep insisting my Lenny hasn’t died.
My sweet daughter calms me down and decides to take me for a drive in her Bronco. No sooner have we hit the road, the entire incident is forgotten and I remember again. My husband Leonard passed away in our 60th year of marriage together. I was 79-years old at the time and lived on. I will be 100-years old soon. When I’m a century old, I hope to be coloring with my grandchildren and smiling at them.
I will always find it hard to believe there isn’t a rainbow after the rain. How could I possibly fear the rain when the truest love grows in my family? It is not hard for me to comprehend there are many other woman like Mrs. Paula and myself. We are men and woman with dementia and and we cannot let it win. I, for one, will not let my own mind destroy me.
With my children by my side, I’ll have dementia outsmarted in no time at all. I find it much easier to believe that miracles are possible in this world. Though my mind doesn’t always work right, I am climbing symbolic mountains and finding treasures every single day.