Sunday, July 12, 2015

Catch the Wind

My mother did so well in hospice care that she was "discharged" after three months, in June. The real game-changer was the 24-hour aides we hired to supplement hospice, at the recommendation of the palliative-care doctor when she was hospitalized in March. Perhaps more important, these wonderful, loving, professional, and creative women complement the often overtaxed staff of the memory-care unit in her assistant-living facility. As a result, she is always clean, well fed, stimulated or rested as appropriate, and much more alert in general.

Strange to say about a 95-year-old with advanced dementia, but at times I almost forget she has dementia, because the connetion—in her eyes, in her smile, in her gestures—is so much more acute and deep than it has been in, well, years. She still doesn't speak, really, and she certainly doesn't show any sign that she knows I'm her "son," per se, someone named "Billy." But she knows me—has never stopped knowing me, actually, even when she was most out of it—and when I speak she seems to hear, even if I'll never know how her mind processes what I say to her. 

It's an ineffable feeling that a veil has been lifted, not permanently but for now—she was not ready to say goodbye, it seems—a veil that has partially occluded her vision for some time.

I hold her hand and we listen to music on my phone, lately the '60s folk channel on Pandora—Simon and Garfunkel, Peter, Paul and Mary, Judy Collins, songs she once knew from the secular-inflected folk Masses my family attended. I also sometimes play '70s light rock—Linda Ronstadt, CSNY, Fleetwood Mac, the stuff that filled her house when her kids took over the stereo. All that is in her too, because she's more than big bands and Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland, and more than classical, which she undeniably loved and which plays on the radio in her room most of the time when I'm not around. She's a fabric with many threads, a suite with many changes.

(And happy birthday, Dad.)

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