Skip navigation

Intersection

She rolled her eyes and screwed up her mouth and stuck her leathery face into his bland one. “You have no idea what‘s good for me!! I HATE you!”
Danny stared at his mother with a mixture of pity and regret. “How did she progress to this stage so quickly?” He wondered. It had seemed like only yesterday, they received the diagnosis. He felt guilty for not getting her to a doctor sooner. He thought everything was fine with her.. While he went to work, his mother stayed home, did some laundry, and watched a few soaps. When he came home ,they cooked dinner together. They both loved to cook. She forgot a few things here and there, but she was old and that seemed normal.

She had a little buddy she used to take walks with too. It was on just such a day when his mother and Margie Plotski took a stroll around the block that her descent into dementia became apparent. They parted ways outside of Margie’s front porch. His mother had only to walk two doors down to their place, but had kept on going. She walked all the way downtown.

A police officer called him at work to say his mother had caused quite a traffic jam by standing smack dab in the middle of the intersection. While horns hollered at her and heartless citizens shook their fists at her, she had simply stood there~ as if looking for something she had lost there in the middle of the street. The officer assured Danny that his mother was safe and was happily enjoying a donut and some coffee.

“From the moment I saw her,” began Danny,” Sitting on the bench in the hallway at the police station, I knew something was different. She looked up at me, but it took a while for her to recognize me. I said to her, I says ‘Okay, Let’s go home Ma.’ Then she says something about not having paid for the donut yet, -like she was in a coffee shop or something. ‘It’s all taken care of Ma,- it’s on the house’ I told her.

I got her to a doctor after that and they told me it was Alzheimer’s Disease.  I tried paying Margie to keep an eye on her for me during the day. That worked ‘till Ma got ticked off at her during a checker game, accused her of cheating and threw a teacup at her little buddy. That was the end of that. I couldn’t blame Mrs. Plotski for not coming back-she was just a scared little old lady herself. I was a little scared, too, truth be told.

I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with my mother. I guessed I could take early retirement and stay home with her. I considered getting home health care, but Mom didn’t like that idea. She looked at me like I was crazy, wagged her finger at me and said, ‘So you’re gonna have a stranger in our home watching me watch soap opera’s all day? I don’t think so!’ Then a friend told me about this place. What’s it called? Autumn Leaves? Oh yeah , Autumn Meadows Assisted Living’” he read from the business card in his hand.“It’s tough, ya know?” He went on, ”She’s been living with me for the past nine years, ever since our lives were sewn together by ‘The Thanksgiving Buttermilk Run.’ That’s what we call it.

My folks came over from Camden like they always did, for Thanksgiving. Theresa, my wife, ~best girl in the world~ top notch cook too! She was making her famous biscuits and forgot the buttermilk. Dad offered to give her a ride to the store downtown, I’m sure he was just looking for any excuse to drive his car. He said he needed more smokes, anyway.

I remember Ma barking at him as he and Theresa stepped out the front door ‘Those things are gonna kill you one day ,Fred!’.. ‘Yeah, yeah yeah’  he always said that to her when she nagged him about smoking. It was playful though. They were still in love- even after forty three years. That’s how Theresa and me wanted to be. That’s how we were then.

Ally was up in her room being a teenager, talkin’ on the phone. I didn’t mind at all being left behind  to peel potatoes with Ma. We were a lot closer than most guys are with their mothers. She was the one who taught me to pitch a baseball, bait a hook, and how to scramble outof a tackle and make a touchdown. Not that dad didn’t know how to do those things, but he worked a lot and Ma… she LOVED that kinda stuff. She took me to games, rode bikes with me ….a real tom-boy, my mom was. Beautiful too!…Smart…and funny. She’s still funny. We always have a lot of laughs together.”

He chuckled with a memory he didn’t reveal.

“Maybe that’s why we didn’t realize the passing of time that day. I remember saying to Ma after we’d finished peelin a load of spuds,‘Dad and Theresa should have been back by now. What the hell are they doing..milking the cow first?’ Mom laughed, didn’t miss a beat, ‘Your father’s probably stopped in the intersection cleaning a bug off his precious windshield with his hanky.’ We had a good laugh. We cracked up. My dad was obsessive with that car. ‘The Lug Nut‘, we used to call him ,he was always tinkering with that thing………. Then we heard the sirens.

We looked straight at each other and the smiles just fell off our faces like pictures off a wall when a door’s slammed shut.  We headed for the door. It took Ma as long to take off her apron,put on her coat and grab her purse as it took me just to grab my car keys. We headed downtown. We got as close as we could get. Traffic was blocked off. Barricades were up. We jumped out of the car, ran up to the intersection, and there, in front of us, we saw two heaps of metal looking like one.”

Danny stopped for a moment, staring at the mental polaroid he took that day , shook his head ,and went on, “From where I stood I could barely make out the light green metallic paint of my father’s ’64 Mustang. He’d just finished fully restoring it, too. We stayed there, speechless for once, watching a movie with a very bad ending.

After they had watched the ambulance pull silently away with their spouses, Danny pulled himself together, put his arm around his mother and said, ”Okay, let’s go home, Ma”

“Mom sold the house in Camden and moved in with me to help raise Ally. Poor kid was only 14 when she lost her mother. I don’t know what I would’ve done without Ma there for those years.”

The nursing home administrator had been patient with his rambling. She was trained to deal with the internal struggle that came with placing a loved one in a ‘home’ but she really wanted to hurry this ‘Admit’ along. She’d skipped breakfast and her stomach was growling audibly. She looked at her watch and shuffled the papers on her desk, mustering a sympathetic tone she said,” I think you are making the most loving decision you could make for your mother. Sometimes we have to do what’s best for EVERY one. Your mother will find a happy home here at Autumn Meadows” She punctuated her standard spiel with an inadequately reassuring smile .

The place seemed neat and clean enough, Danny had thought. It was well staffed with experts who dealt with Alzheimer’s daily. So he signed the papers.The famished  administrator devoured the accomplishment and harvested a  genuine smile.

Danny went out to the common room, where his mother sat, plucking at the pilling on her old blue sweater. He sat down next to her and told her of his decision . He told her that she needed special care now and she would be better off here in assisted living.

THAT was when she freaked out. Rolling her eyes and shouting at him, hot breath in his face, she screamed about how he didn’t know what was good for her…she even said that she hated him.

He could only stare back at her blankly. Her words ,though they were coming from the dementia, DID have a viable source. He realized it was simply her pain showing. Love, marred by assumed betrayal, turned inside out -to hate. She was no cry baby. She was incapable of pleading. No, his mother was one tough cookie. He should know.

He thought about this disease. ..how it broke a person up and distributed the mind like flotsam. He knew he’d have to drop everything and take care of her.But weren’t they good at that? Picking up pieces, starting over. ….finding a way?

Danny reached out and held her tissue paper hand in his, patted it with his other one, smiled, and said,

”Okay, Let’s go home, Ma.”

Advertisements

One Comment

  1. Some good stuff here, Ellen. I’m glad to see this exercise took you in such a creative direction.

    I particularly enjoyed the colloquialism “I said to her, I says.” I hear that all the time back where I’m from, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it in a narrative.

    I also appreciated the metaphors of how the disease “broke a person up and distributed the mind like flotsam,” and their smiles falling “like pictures off a wall when a door’s slammed shut.” Very pleasant imagery.

    I wouldn’t have minded knowing earlier that Danny is speaking to a nursing home administrator. I’m not sure the reveal toward the end packs a punch, and I think it would’ve better informed the narrative if we learned of the setting ealier.

    Outside of that, very well done.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: