My Blog

August 13, 2017

Elderly Mothers and New Arrivals

A neat, hand-lettered welcome sign written in colored chalk on a small blackboard stood on the front desk. Three brightly colored balloons floated above it.

Lady H, followed by half a dozen family members, entered the Residential Facility. She walked cautiously, smiling on being introduced, but not particularly happy to be there. She has one of the rooms that opens out onto the courtyard and the doors to the greenspace stood open invitingly. Forever Roses grew in a hedge outside.

A pleasant, plump, younger woman with long dark hair, elegant make-up and a cheerful smile, began the task of organizing the move. Two large brawny men and three older women, evidently sons and sisters-in-law, all began the parade of carrying in armloads, cart loads, and moving-dolly loads of Grandma’s goods.

I stared in amazement as I walked past. Piles of clothes on hangers and boxes of bedroom goods. Mattress, box springs and a fancy headboard. Several brown and beige living room chairs with side tables. Even a huge life-size fake wood fireplace with beige wooden base, ornate carved wood mantel surround and electric fire place insert.  In an airconditioned apartment?

I was startled by one of the sons carrying in an antler-bedecked deer head. I thought, at first, it was to hang on the wall. It turned out to be a lamp with attendant deer-design lamp shade. I’m sure a deer head over the fire place would have been most apropos.

Another son wheeled in a dolly towering with boxes of – certainly not food? – maybe dishes and pots and pans headed into the postage-stamp size kitchen. Evidently Grandma liked to cook but the cafeteria dining-room with good food makes cooking in their rooms totally unnecessary.

As they carried in more boxes, I met the family and asked about the new arrival. Lady H is small, white-haired, not yet stooped but slow-moving. A little deaf but with hearing aids and glasses. She falls some, hence the move to the Residential Facility. She is not happy about being forced, unwillingly, to give up her home but she seemed to be accepting it as best she could. She has a walker, and the daughter/granddaughter hadn’t thought about the need to decorate it. I’ll be curious to see what her choice is. Deer antlers?

I think she is a native Texan, unlike many of our Yankee converts. After the death of her husband, she worked for 25 years as a volunteer at the Conroe Hospital just to be around people. Now she is moving to our much smaller town where some of her sons live. Her family says she is chatty and likes being with people.

I wondered where she would sit. The luxury-ladies table was already full. The couple’s tables wouldn’t work. The cranky’s tables wouldn’t be good for her. She needs a table of cheerful, talkative ladies who will make her feel welcome. I hope Mary, the Chef, will find a suitable place for her.

Casper, a curious chatty six-year-old, was the youngest of the throng. He had nothing to do but stay out from under foot, so he and I joined forces and I gave him a guided tour of the place. He talked non-stop about his Grandma. (I wonder if people realize what stories kids tell and what secrets they reveal?) He particularly liked the ice cream parlor (Ice Cream Social at 2 pm, in two hours), but was disappointed at the lack of a swimming pool. Come to think of it, they really should have water aerobics for the elderly. Mom would be ecstatic.

Like me, Casper was particularly interested in the dining room. I helped him pick out a place for his Grandma and he sat down to label their spaces. Using the menu pencil, he laboriously wrote his name, her name and his mother’s name on the paper place mats. He then took the menu back to his Grandma for her to choose her meal. The whole family will get to eat free on move-in day.

While Casper continued to talk non-stop, we reviewed the seven halls, the laundry room, the library, the meeting rooms, and being introduced to Mom. Then we visited the Assisted Living area. The concept of differences in ability totally escaped him. Wheelchairs he could understand, but his Grandma wasn’t ready for one of those yet.

I got Casper back to his family as they settled Grandma’s things into place. Amazing how much we think we need. I remember seeing a series of pictures of families from around the world with all their goods piled out in front of their homes. Third-world countries had only the simplest of things. Americans, of course, had mountains of mostly useless decorative paraphernalia. Downsizing is hard.

Casper was met by a whispered reprimand as his mother jerked him up by the arm. He had failed to flush the toilet. I bet Grandma will forget too. But at least Casper will get to go home with a good meal, some ice cream and a prize. At the front desk, the staff lady promised him the three balloons attached to the welcome sign.

I hope he remembered to take them.

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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