I was walking down the orange hall this evening on my way to the elevator when a young woman fell into step right beside me.
"Looks like you're bringing food too" she said.
"Yeah, Fresh strawberries. Whadda you got?" I asked, being friendly and outgoing and pleasant because I can be these things if I make a decision to.
"Tarts. With strawberries in them" she replied.
"Geriatric ward, right?" she inquired.
"Is that the old people floor? 5th?"
How did she figure that out? Do I look like I'm the type to visit a geriatric?
"My mom is the one who attacked your dad," she said. "Remember?"
"What? When? And how do you know my dad?"
"Room 8, right?"
"How did you know?" I asked. I didn't recognize her at all. But then again - when I go visit dad, I don't really notice anyone else in any other rooms. Tunnel vision. Focus. One track mind.
"Didn't we meet this morning?" she asked. "I could have sworn I rode the elevator with you a few hours ago."
"Oh, that would have been my sister, she was here earlier."
"Are you twins? Wow, you look alike."
(Julie is 5 years younger and looks like our dad's side of the family. I am the haggard older one who looks like our mom's side. Twins. I think not.)
"No, just sisters. Which one is your mom, and how did she attack my dad?"
Her mom is the tiny 85 pound Parkinson's patient whose bed is directly across from my dad's. Her name is Maureen and she is bent in half. When she sits in her wheelchair, he chin rests on her knees. She attacked my dad? She can barely move. On Sunday night, I wheeled her around and helped her with her tray. She can't even lift her head. She can barely hold a spoon.
"She thought your dad was in prison so she tried to free him from the cords that were trapping him. She pulled his intravenous out."
"My dad hasn't been on intravenous."
"Well she has dementia, so the story may have some fabrications in it."
"Well my dad has dementia and can't remember who visits him or what he had for supper, so we're all good." (Although, maybe she WAS near his bed, and that's what prompted his need to watch The Bodyguard on Monday morning?)
We chat about her family situation. I had talked with her older brother last night, and apparently I was lucky because of her 8 siblings, he's the only one who is not an arse. She's had her mom living with her for 6 years, but she's pregnant, has a toddler and a 5 year old and she can't take it anymore.
We are still talking to each other as we enter room 8 and then we stop. She turns to the right and says, "Hi mom! I've got some things for you..." and I turn to the left and say, "Hey handsome! What show are you watching..."
There's something about a shared experience that transcends all barriers. We didn't have to say anything about what it's like to be at the hospital visiting a weakened parent with diminished mental capacity issues. We didn't have to say a thing about hospital food; we each were bringing snacks. We didn't even have to say anything else to each other as we entered the room. We both knew our roles in these visits.
Somehow there's comfort in that.
You're never alone on the journey. Any journey. Someone has not only walked it before you, but if you allow that friendly stranger who falls in step beside you to share the path, you have someone to walk alongside you as you go. That's a cool thing.
You could go it alone. By why would you want to?
Three things I'm thankful for:
1. We're finally getting some answers. Apparently my dad's doctor gave up his hospital privileges, so we've been waiting to hear from the hospital doctor. He confirmed that when mom brought dad in on Friday afternoon, he was in congestive heart failure. That has stabilized and now they're just monitoring his meds and watching him regain his strength. He needs to prove to them that he is able to walk unassisted for some distance. It may take as long as another week before he can be released.
2. Meanwhile, mom is flat in bed at home. She sounds simply awful. Bronchitis, I suspect. And fatigue. And just general weariness. She hasn't been able to leave the house, so Jule and I bring our cellphones to dad so he can talk to her a couple times a day. But she's on the mend. It'll probably take a week for her to get her strength back. SO thankful that Mandi lives there to keep an eye on her.
3. Max took the Durango out for his first ever solo drive tonight. He filled it up with gas for me. Then cruised around for 15 minutes. In case you were wondering, it doesn't get easier. Everytime your kid leaves in a motor vehicle, a tiny piece of your heart accompanies them. I am thankful he came back safe.