Because Mom had an agitated day yesterday, I decide I need to visit her today, for the first time since my surgery a week ago.
I arrange for Marie to drop me off in the mid-afternoon because I'm not yet allowed to drive. I walk up the steps and around to the elevator, arrive on her floor, and walk all the way around to her room--my exercise for the day.
When I arrive, she's in her recliner, sound asleep.
"Hi, Mom. How are you? Open your eyes!"
I can't rouse her. I take her hands in mine, pat her cheeks. No reaction.
It's as if her computer won't boot up. My big effort to come see her is all for nothing. I should have remembered that after an agitated day, she almost always has a sleepy day. These variations are a main symptom of Lewy Body Dementia.
Meselech, one of the caregivers at Ocean View, comes into the room.
"Hi--I was just going to take her to the bathroom," she says. "But I see she's still sleeping, and you're here. I'll take her later."
"She's having a sleepy day," I reflect.
"Yes, she has been sleeping all afternoon, and in the morning too, they said." Meselech is the caregiver in charge of Mom and several other residents for the 2 -10 pm shift. An immigrant from Ethiopia, she is kind and has a great sense of humor.
"Yesterday she was crying," Meselech tells me. "She was saying, 'My daughter! She's going to die.'"
"Yes, Connie told me."
"She was saying, 'She has nothing to eat! I have to take her some fruit.'
"I said, 'She has a husband and daughter. They will give her food.'
"But she said, 'No, her husband doesn't give her healthy food.'"
"Oh Meselech, that's why she was so agitated! When I was talking with her on the phone on Sunday, she asked if John was cooking for me, and I said, 'Not really. Last night he ordered a pizza, but he didn't make a salad or serve anything healthy like fruit.' So that's where she got the idea that she needed to bring me fruit!"
Turning to Mom, I try again. "Mom, it's Anne! I came to visit you! Wake up!" I shout.
"I had my uterus out," Mom mumbles, her eyes still closed.
"No, I did! I'm the one who had a uterus out," I say, laughing with Meselech.
"Yes? Oh..." she says, groggy.
"Open your eyes."
"I will when I get around to it."
"Talk to me."
"What do you want me to say?"
"Anything. Do you need to go to the bathroom?" I suggest. "Meselech, could you take her? Maybe it will wake her up."
Meselech helps her out of the recliner, into the wheelchair, and into the bathroom.
I sit down and lie back in Mom's recliner to rest.
Soon I hear Mom singing:
I love you truly, truly dear.
Life with its sorrows,
Life with its tear.
Then she is singing "Happy Birthday to you..."
Why? Did Meselech ask her to sing? I don't know, but at least she's waking up.
"Did you have fun in your surgery?" Mom asks me when they return.
"Yes," I say. Meselech is pointing out to me that Mom has a bump on the top of her head. She complains when Meselech touches it. How did she get it? Meselech and I are puzzled.
"You're sitting in my chair," Mom says, not pleased.
"Oh, I'm sorry," I say. "But it's almost dinner time. No need for you to move to this chair."
"She missed you so much last week," Meselech tells me. "She always say, 'I have to go to Anne's house.'"
"You like to go to my house, don't you?" I say to Mom.
"I used to. But now you've gotten so sassy, I don't care about it." She's angry with me, perhaps because I am sitting in her chair. I change the subject.
"Your hair still looks good. That was nice of Elisa to come to work as usual on Veterans Day."
"I'm a veteran. I deserve to be one too. I'm a four-year veteran."
"Yes, you are. Well, it's time to go to dinner now. I'm going to leave. You should walk to dinner, get some exercise. Meselech, can you help her walk to dinner?"
"Of course," she says, going to get the walker.
"Which one of us had a uterus out?" Mom asks, out of the blue.
"I did. I had a hysterectomy last week."
"Oh, that's right."
Meselech pulls Mom to her feet, and after a couple of steps she attains a precarious balance.
We set off down the hall for the dining room.