It's New Year's Eve, so at 2 pm I drive to Mom's residence and bring her to my house to enjoy the sunny and warm California afternoon.
Roz is sitting in the back yard talking on her cell phone, so I wheel Mom into the patio area by the flowers and put the chihuahua Irie into her lap... then I give Mom a plate of fruit to eat.
Bill brought some holly from his yard in Steilacoom, Washington, when he was here, so I show her the holly and put a branch of it in her hands.
"We used to call it kinnikinick. We'd go to the south hillside to get it," she says.
"This is holly," I say.
"Do you think it's the same thing as kinnikinick?" she asks. I don't know the answer to that one.
Then I wheel her inside the house and give her some chocolate cake to eat.
"Here's your Christmas apron," I say. "Do you remember when we sewed this? It was about ten years ago."
"Yes," she says, looking at the newspaper. I put Irie on her lap for a photo in front of the Christmas wreath she gave us twenty years ago. It has a custom-designed scene in the center with a miniature tree, fireplace, rocking chair, and toys. Over the fireplace is a painting of Pike's Peak, and nearby stands a miniature newspaper titled Los Angeles Times.
After the cake and photos, Roz comes in to talk.
"Tell her your dream," I prompt Grandma, but she is reluctant to do that.
When I had first arrived at her residence, she had told me that in the night Roz and her friends had been noisily swimming in the pool there (what pool?) and she had had to report them. At that point I didn't try to argue with her that it had just been a dream, but now I hope to clarify it.
Instead, Grandma is confused and embarrassed. Not much gets clarified.
"We need to go out now and buy a few things at the store," I say. "And then we'll go back." I break this news gently. I don't say, "Back to Ocean View Assisted Living."
I'm pretty sure she doesn't want to return, but I need to cook dinner and be available for my kids. I can't make pizza dough, fix quacamole, make a spinach salad, bake the pizza and then bake brownies while also toileting Grandma and supplying her with things to eat and do--but I feel bad for her spending New Year's Eve alone at her residence, dozing in her recliner.
On December 31 of 2005 and 2006 I kept her with us for part of the evening, or I slept at her house to give the private caregiver the night off. In 2003 and 2004 I let her sleep at our house on New Year's Eve and Christmas Eve, and I slept on the floor in the same room to jump up if she tried to get out of bed or called for help in the night. But now I am trying to limit the hours I put into her care.
Mom cooperates with leaving my house at 4:30 pm, and we drive to a market to get a cake, a platter of cookies, and a platter of hors d'oeuvres for the staff at Ocean View. I feel so grateful to them for working on New Year's Eve, a gratitude mixed with guilt that they are caring for Mom on this evening instead of me.
The lines in the grocery store are long, however, and Mom has to wait in the car for twenty minutes or more.
We park and I load her lap with the trays of goodies.
"This is for the people who work for you," I say.
"Oh good," she answers. "I like to be generous." We take the two elevators to her floor; then we do our bathroom routine and I wheel her into the dining area.
"But I don't want to go to dinner," she argues. "I'm not hungry."
Though she has snacked for two hours, I don't want to leave her isolated in her room. I need her to be in the dining area for an hour at 5 pm before she returns to her room and sits in her recliner until bedtime.
"You need your protein," I tell her. "There's some healthy food here, even though you had cake at my house."
A caregiver puts a delicious-looking bowl of soup in front of her: pieces of potato and broccoli in a thick cream. She stabs it viciously with her spoon.
"It's the same soup every day!" she says angrily. "The same soup every day!"
She does have soup every evening, different kinds that probably all blend into one in her mind.
Her anger, however, is at having to be back at Ocean View, in this dining room, instead of at my house with her family.
"Goodbye, I'll see you tomorrow," I say, slipping off as quietly as possible.