It snowed in the Palouse today. Frankly, I was glad to see those flakes. I've been hot. Stinking hot, I tell you. My chemistry is all messed up, so while everyone else in the world is bundling up, I'm so hot I'm flushing from it. And I never even blushed when I was a teenager and boys teased me. Having my cheeks cherry red and burning does NOT appeal. So this afternoon when those first flakes floated down from the white sky, I was encouraged that wearing my coat wouldn't overheat me. But later in the day, the snow turned to rain, and my cheeks grew pink again. And so it goes as my age.
At lunch, RE and I ran into the woman who'd been the secretary at our church just about our whole childhood. And she didn't only know RE, she knew me. I mean she really knew me, not just that I was one of the other sisters. She asked about Mom, and we got to talking about her, about this dread disease, about the unadulterated sadness of it all. Charlene said that though she's known other people who died of Alzheimers, somehow Mom's case seems even more tragic to her. "She was just so intelligent, always reading, always pushing...to know more, study more, be involved. That she should get so bad, it's just terrible." She said her own mom who'd had it, hadn't been like Mom is. I suggested that perhaps those other people died of something else before it got like this. We spoke with Charlene a little longer, then were off to visit the poor woman herself.
On our way to Mom's, we made a detour to a local store to buy her a new cardigan sweater (the nursing home staff seems to dress her in the same clothes, the same ratty sweater day after miserable day. And don't get me started on her greasy hair! But apparently her bath night is Thursday, so we'll see how she looks tomorrow). We also bought her a very soft, stuffed puppy, just about the size of a newborn baby. She only had two tiny teddy bears, and we noticed yesterday that when she's extremely upset, cuddling one made her feel a tad bit better. So off we went, with new toy and new sweater. And found her just wheeling herself into her room. By the time she'd stopped by the window, she was already crying. And I'm just saying, this time it wasn't my fault.
In fact, I don't think she could tell us whose fault it was, or what it was, or anything else. She was just crying. RE handed her the plush puppy, and she instantly put it against her shoulder, just the way she used to hold her babies and ours, patting them on back so they'd birp. She patted that puppy, and we chatted with each other, and she didn't take her liquid medicine. Another day, another refusal. And so it goes. At one point, though, I told RE I'd remembered the phrase Mom had said yesterday that made RE laugh because it was Mom through and through. The phrase was, "Yeah, right!" As RE repeated it, in exactly Mom's cadence, Mom said, without missing a beat, "If that ain't the truth!" though she didn't look up or at us as she said it. We both laughed then, thinking how peculiar it is that some of her real self comes through the garble.
After a while, Mom turned her wheelchair and moved herself away from us. She'd barely seen us anyway. Whatever presence was there yesterday was surely gone today, which I suppose is how it goes. At least it's how it goes in the movies. I know, when my daughters watched "The Notebook," I saw it too.
And so it goes. Ruth'll keep visiting her (as I will when I'm near enough to do so). We'll all keep praying for her, surrendering both her life and her death to God's strong, firm hands.