Thursday, October 19, 2006

Dancing Again

Is there any point in taking someone in a wheelchair to a ball?
Yes, despite my doubts, Mom really enjoyed this evening. Her residence had scheduled its annual grand ball celebrating the third year since it opened.
"Evening dress" the invitation said, promising a live band.
I'd planned to have Mom's private caregiver take her to this event, while I cleaned house for the P.E.O. meeting at my house tomorrow, but Connie is still out sick.
I arrived at 6:45 pm to wheel Mom down to the main floor, having made sure she wore a gold, long-sleeved blouse and a fancy pink, green, and gold skirt with plenty of jewelry. (I wasn't dressed quite up to the level required but at least didn't have jeans on.)
Entering the decorated ball room with a buffet of shrimp and hors d-ouevres, a bar, and the band, we were immediately photographed.
Then after carefully choosing some items from the buffet for her, I placed her wheelchair right in front of the dance floor, where she could see the musicians in their sixties and the three or four brightly dressed couples dancing.
A year ago we had sat at a table in the corner with the other residents of her floor. That was a better place for eating and meeting the families of other residents, but Mom had been completely unaware of the dancing, so this time I wanted her to see it.
"You don't eat the tails, right?" she asked about the shrimp on her plate.
"No, just put them aside," I answered as she dribbled shrimp sauce down her gold blouse. I made sure that the shrimp tails vanished from her plate as soon as she laid one down.
She was done eating very soon and fixed her attention on the dancers.
Because most of the residents were too unstable to dance, many using either walkers or wheelchairs, two couples from a ballroom dancing club had been hired to display their skills and also invite those who could to dance.
One elegantly dressed resident had been out on the floor dancing with her daughter, probably 55 or so, when one of the gentleman dancers asked her to dance.
This slender, silver-haired lady's delight at chatting with the debonair, equally gray gentleman and being carefuly twirled around the floor was a joy to behold. Other ladies took their turn.
I noticed that one lady in a wheelchair near us had a cascade of freshly done silver curls like the blonde hairstyles seen at the Academy Awards ceremonies.
"Your hair looks so elegant," I said, bending over her. "Did you have your hair done today?"
She stared back at me blankly but attentively, not saying a word. I realized she must be a dementia patient, unable to speak, though she's not on my mother's floor in the residence.
"Are you enjoying the music?" I asked my mother as she sat there watching.
"Yes," she said, and I noticed that her feet in their heavy, ankle-high black shoes were moving and tapping on the floor as she sat in her wheelchair watching the dancers.
In the early '50s, she wore tiny slip-on high heels and danced with my father at the Officers' Club and at other cocktail parties in Tokyo during the Korean War.
She was back there, dancing again, tonight.
At previous evening parties put on by the residence, she has fallen asleep or bored quickly and demanded to return to her room. I waited in vain this time for her to ask to leave.
Finally, when the band took a break, I asked, "Well, Mom are you about ready to return to your room?"
"Well maybe, I guess so," she answered.
We made our exit, picking up a framed copy of the photo taken earlier, and went back to her floor, where I showered her and put her in her nightgown. I was hoping to leave then at 8:45 pm, but Charita came by dispensing medicines and asked if I was planning to give her the meds and put her to bed. I decided to finish up her evening routine, leaving her in bed with her clothes laid out for the P.E.O. meeting tomorrow.
"Okay, Mom, I'll come for you tomorrow morning for the P.E.O. meeting at our house," I said.
"But I thought this was the P.E.O. party," she said.
"No, this was just the Ocean View party," I said. "Tomorrow all the P.E.O.s come to our house."
I left, wishing these two events hadn't been back to back, realizing that she has more than enough stimulation in her life.
Why did I start taking her to P.E.O. meetings and then join myself and go to all the trouble to have a meeting at my house? It probably wasn't necessary.
But a year ago she had been asking to go to P.E.O., and I foolishly agreed to it.

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