Mum was seventy six last week. (Yep, a post about ageing and nursing homes and all that cheerful stuff. Feel free to read something happier on Designmom.com or Vintagekidsbooksmykidloves.com. It’s fine. No offence taken. )
I went over to the nursing home on the evening of her birthday and she was in the sitting room with the usual motley crew (crue?). They were having a cup of tea and a nurse was sitting with them. A young one who, cringingly, felt she needed to keep some sort of cheerful three way conversation going.
“She was in good form today, weren’t you Dani!” I smiled and started the pretty pointless “Hi Mum! Happy Birthday!” Adding “It’s Lucy, your daughter!” for the benefit of the nurse, although why I didn’t introduce myself I really don’t know. Beaming, she (the nurse, not mum unfortunately) continued “I think she knew something special was going on!” which was so sad I couldn’t really answer.
I got a welcome distraction when I noticed the old lady who always says “who on EARTH are you?” was eyeing me up. Leaning towards the man sitting beside her she conspiratorially muttered “Certain people, hmmm….without so much as a by-your-leave…” and he was nodding knowingly. Although knowingly is an unfortunate term to be using about anyone in a dementia unit.
It was cheering to see their camaraderie though. The way they sort of ganged up was comforting. God knows, if anyone needs a friend or a confidante, it is a resident of a nursing home. Judging by the hungry eyes when I enter the main sitting room on my way to mums unit, loneliness is pretty rampant. I used to stop and talk to some of them, but in the end figured I was just spending less time with mum, which didn’t seem fair. And also felt a bit guilty that it was so much easier to talk to someone who could understand what I was saying.
There following a rather mortifying minute when I said to the older nurse who came in with some biscuits. “she’s seventy five today, at least I’m pretty sure she is?” and she said “Well, she was born in 1936..” and I thought she was asking me to tot up mums age, so I said “Hmmm 46, 56, 66…” and realised quickly that I was going to panic when I got to 96. I know it’s not difficult maths, but I always, always freeze when someone asks me to do a sum in my head. (Similarly, when someone says “catch!” I usually know for absolute certain I am not going to catch the keys they are throwing. )
The nurse said kindly “seventy six” and I wasn’t sure when I should be embarrassed about not knowing mum’s age or being so crap at mental maths. But there was no need for either really, she was gone already, wheeling the tea trolley back to the kitchen. I chatted to nurse-young-and-cheerful, held mums hand for a few minutes and headed home.