One day last week, we visited a friend in a rehabilitation facility. I have seen mom’s reaction around older folks especially if they are in wheelchairs or using walkers so I knew this would be a difficult visit for her. Mom is getting skittish about being home by herself so I tried to prep her for the visit since she would have to tag along.
I told her that we had a dear friend who broke a couple of bones and was recuperating and getting physical therapy. Her reaction to my prep work was priceless. She quipped, “If there is a job opening, I would like to work in a care home! I feel for those who can’t help themselves!” Well, my heart smiled as I told her she was wonderful for thinking this.
Her bravado faded as we walked through the hallways past rooms with folks shuffling around, some moaning in their beds, and many simply sitting in wheelchairs wearing bibs, nodding off in front of the television. She clutched her purse tightly to her chest and stayed close. She was wide-eyed during the whole visit and tensed up during the walk out. The whole time – there was a palpable fear in her posture and in her eyes.
Then yesterday she got a phone call from one of my aunts. Bad news. A cousin’s mother is in critical condition and is in hospice. Mom got off the phone and told me the news, but added, “she is old anyway – when it’s your time, it’s your time.” By the time she got downstairs and sat down for lunch not 10 minutes later, she had forgotten all about the call. I think she sometimes chooses to force unhappy thoughts out or pushes them over the edge into the abyss where all her information has disappeared into.
Now for the lasagna. Sunday afternoon, I had put two pans of lasagna into the oven. It was our turn to feed the teenagers at church and all we had time for was frozen lasagna. All was well until I tried to transfer one of the pans into the carry container. The whole thing slipped and the hot mess splattered all over my kitchen floor and onto my legs! I shouted out in pain (hot cheese and sauce burns!) and quickly tried to see if any of the lasagna remained in the pan. Nope. It was all over the floor. Mom and Frank came running! Mom was holding the bag with other supplies and got flustered. I didn’t mean to get short with her, but I was afraid she’d slip on the sauce so I told her that I’d deal with it. She hid. She put herself in the laundry room and stayed there until we called to her. She got scared! We tried to reassure her that all was okay and that it was taken care of but for much of the afternoon, her eyes were big as saucers. There it was again – fear.
Her fears are something new for me. Her stubborn streak and tantrums are fairly simple to deal with but fear? Fear of being left. Fear of what being old brings. Fear because she can’t cope. Fear because she can’t process information fast enough. Fear of the new and unfamiliar. Fear that we may be so angry with her or each other that a conflict arises. Fear that becomes a monster because though they are the same as our fears, she has no idea how to wrestle with it or how to rationalize it away and worst of all, to tell us she is scared.
So, we pray for her and keep our household calm – as calm as possible, but stuff comes up – or in the case of the lasagna, it falls apart on the floor. Gotta run and rescue my coffee mug – mom is on the hunt for something to wash!