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Any day spent in the company of a loved one is a special day

Any day spent in the company of a loved one is a special day

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. I mentally make my “gratitude list” as I drive to visit my 95-year-old mother in a long term care facility.

When I get to Mom’s room, she is napping. She does this more often these days. Sometimes the sleep is so deep that I go home without making eye contact. Sometimes the sleep is light and she will open her bright blue eyes with such intensity, I half expect her to order me to clean my room.

Today was a light sleep and I was grateful because I didn’t know when COVID testing might prevent a visit. She opens her eyes to reveal a faraway look. She has been caught somewhere between sweet oblivion and a conscious existence that isn’t recognizable.

I pull my mask down enough so she can see my face. Then, I put it back up according to the regulations. I tell her my name and that I’m her daughter.

“Of course I know you, Sweetie,” she says with mocking disdain. But I’m not sure she does. Not totally. I think she just knows that I am someone she loves.

It is a beautiful day outside. We probably won’t see one like this again until April, so I ask her if she would like to go outside. She says, “Is it my birthday?”

I tell her “no.”

Then she says, “Is it a special day?” And I say, “It is really nice out and we are together. That makes it special, right?” She chuckles. In recent months, I’m not sure when I am being let in on a private joke or if we are talking in two different universes.

A CNA comes in to help her into her wheelchair. Then I put on her coat, her lap blanket, her hat and sunglasses and push her wheelchair outside.

The moment we pass through the door, she turns her face toward the sun, gathering the pulsing rays. After a little while, she says, “It’s a little chilly out isn’t it?”

“Do you want to go in?” I ask, but she answers with an emphatic “No!”

We stroll around the front of the building and over to the veteran’s memorial in the front. She asks if she knew anyone listed on the Civil War plaque. I explain that her great grandfather was in that war. I steer her toward the Korean War list and remind her that her brother and brother-in-law had been in this war. She thinks maybe she remembers who they are. It saddens me because they had been a huge part of her life and now she struggles to recapture their memory.

My mother exclaims that she has never seen this beautiful area before (but she has many times). Family members’ military service was the topic of conversation for a long time, but now I am the one telling her the stories.

As I push the wheelchair to a seating area on the side of the building, she says, “I missed my birthday this year.” I remind her that she’d had dinner at my sister’s home and her living children were all there. I showed her pictures of her birthday from my phone.

She shook her head, “I can’t remember anything anymore.” Then she smiles. “I bet I had fun.”

Pretty soon a gentleman, bent slightly at the waist and walking with a cane, comes over and sits down beside us. He tells me that he stops to say “hello” to Mom sometimes but she says she doesn’t remember him. He introduces himself again, not offended by her comment. They smile at each other. Mom suddenly and randomly says to the gentleman, “I don’t have any teeth.”

Unflinching, he shows her which ones were real and which ones were artificial in his own mouth. Mom said that her memory wasn’t very good. He says, “That’s okay.” That happens to all of us.” He then tells her she has a nice smile. She beams at the compliment!

I hope Mom can hold on to the memories of the sunshine, of the kind man who gave her a compliment, of her pride in her brave siblings who served in war.

And I hope I can hold on to my gratitude for this day with her for a long time too.

Farm & Ranch Guide Weekly Update

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Doreen Rosevold is a humorist/columnist from Mayville, ND.

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