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August 11, 2017

Elderly Mothers and the Battle of the Pews

We need a seating chart to designate the participants. Perhaps the seating is based on their faculties. And new arrivals need to know.

I whispered the advice over and over as Mom and I approached the table “Don’t sit there! Don’t sit there! Please don’t sit there!”

Lady O, a new arrival, was about to put herself down in Mom’s favored spot. Even if I had said it aloud, it wouldn’t have helped. There she sat, in Mom’s pew. I moved Mom around to the next chair at the round table, nearly indistinguishable from the first, but it wasn’t ‘HERS’.

Fortunately, Mom is not a complaining person. She looked puzzled but didn’t argue. The good advice from Lady I, who is nearly blind, came to mind. There is always another chair, she says. And she should know. She’s moved around the table more often than a hockey puck on ice.

There are certain tables that have become designated for certain groups.

The stellar gathering is the five ladies who have all their faculties and almost all their abilities. Only one is on a cane. No walkers here. They all arrive in color-coordinated outfits, make-up and jewelry and sit together at the table closest to the head of the dining room. They can actually hold a conversation, which, of course, includes gossip about the rest. And fluttering concerns: “How is your Mom? Did you hear about Lady M’s son? When is Lady B coming back?”

There are the cranky tables. A few (thank goodness, a very few), of the residents can get cranky and mean. Do NOT sit in their seats. The table mates who sit with them accept their attitudes with a smile and just listen to the diatribes. The Crankies can complain about the wait staff, the food, the table, the chairs, the lighting, the air conditioning, the dogs, the televisions next door, and so on, ad infinitum.

Fortunately, there are never two “crankies” at the same table. That might cause bloodshed. But they don’t ever really fight. They just bicker, loudly, to their supporters, making comments about the other one’s cranky attitudes. If they were accused of being cranky they would deny it completely. They cannot see themselves as others see them. I know Mom can’t.

Then there are the couple’s tables. Usually one or the other member of the pair is incapacitated in some way. Or they are both a little weak or unsteady. They help each other, arm in arm, or one pushing the other in a wheelchair or following along with a walker or taking a meal back to their partner who slept in. We never hear quarreling. Or perhaps they reserve that for their rooms.

In come cases, there is room for amazement, and perhaps even, joy. “We just got back from the doctor,” one very lovely lady tells me as I stopped by to check. “He just had his shots and now he says he’s going to chase me around the room,” she says. Nearly hunch-backed and paunchy, he grins, “It’s a small room.”

The few men seem to congregate at their own tables. In one case two Navy men sit together, with the addition of one of the wives. In another, two men are happy not talking much. Some of the men can still communicate and enjoy talking about the politics of the day. If they do, they are almost always of like minds. No political or religious wrangling here.The other men migrate from table to table, changing spaces. Pew ownership doesn’t seem to matter to them.

A very few are completely silent, shuffling in and out without speaking. Male or female, they often sit alone, by preference and no one questions their choice of pews. If someone is in ‘their’ seat they quietly shuffle over to another one.

And then there are the ones like Mom, sometimes talkative, sometimes not all there. At whichever table they sit, there is always someone who is willing to help write out their menu request or see that they eat. They all know they are headed down the same road and they will need each other’s help.

Battles over pews or not, this is a community that helps and supports each other.

Elderly Mothers
About Caroline Castillo Crimm

Retired Professor Emeritus from Sam Houston State University, interested in writing novels and speaking about topics such as the history of Latin American. Would like to share the AMAZING world of the 18th century in Northern New Spain, that's Spanish Texas and Mexico!

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