6 January 2010
--She sits slumped over to her right in a chair in the Country Lane common area. “Sit up, Martha,” Christine and I tell her. She props her left elbow on the rest for a few moments, then slumps over again. Christine wanted her to get her hair done before I came; it's short, plastered oddly to her head. She wears the black sneakers with pink lace holders that Bryant and the kids and I got her a couple of years ago, white socks, black slacks, and shirt and brown suede jacket that I've not seen before. The one time she stands up to go into the next room for lunch, she appears smaller than before, needs guidance to walk the several paces to sit down next to Sylvia, the woman who speaks loudly when she speaks, sings sometimes down the hall. Today, she'd been asleep until one of the workman came and flapped his arms for her, pretending to fly.
--I'm so tired at lunch (lost sleep, jetlag, a trip to mom's lawyer and tax preparer in Arlington) that I excuse myself, lie down on mom's bed and go to sleep. She's in room 9, has a new neighbor since last year. Christine brings mom in after lunch to go to the bathroom, then leaves. Then I hear loud noises. “YOU'RE TRYING TO KILL ME, I KNOW YOU'RE TRYING TO KILL ME!!!!” When I go back out to the common room, Cristine is dealing with a fake Christmas tree that's been knocked down. The glass angel, the one the workman had already fixed, is damaged again, its wing broken off. The light strings are in knots. Christine takes the tree down. It was P, whom I remember as a placid woman last February. She's angry now, back in her room, banging on the door.
--Later in the afternoon, P comes out; Christine gets her to sit in the common room, brings her Ensure in a small cup. P is almost past language. Lifts her arms up, as if to place them on the handle bars of a motorcycle, says, NNNNNNNNNNNO, NNNNNNNNNNO. Begins a sentence one way, finishes it, or fails to finish it another. J, the man she shoved, does the same. “Julie,” he says, nothing more. P's eyes get big when she gets mad, and she's mad. Then she comes over to me to ask, "what can I do for you?" Can't finish her question. "What do you think you could do for me?" I ask. She holds her shirt at the bottom, might raise it. Christine intervenes; leads her to a chair.
--J says he has a “hole.” He keeps telling me about falling out of bed, waiting for three hours, crying out, and getting this hole, larger than a quarter, as he shows me with his hand. He has a cut on his forehead. But the hole is on his leg. Christine raises up his pant leg. “You have an abrasion,” she says. I try to help by reducing the word to “scrape.”
--”She used to be my best, first customer in the mornings,” Lena tells those gathered in the common room. Lena holds a large white ball, which she tosses back and forth while she talks. “Now it's you,” she tells a woman in the first row. Mom's too frail now, not so interested.
--My mother dozes as the television runs. Before lunch it's _Young Frankenstein_. That was a movie I saw with mom. Now five old people sit and sleep while Gene Wilder vamps. After lunch the _Planet of the Apes_ movies are on. Charlton Heston sweet talks a young woman, thin and breasty, who does not speak. “Can you talk? Talk?” he demands. There is hair on his chest, loud teeth in his mouth. He gives her his dog tag. Says “Taylor” and points to himself. Says the name again, again points. Disappears, with a gun, off his horse into thin air. The second one, the one who looks like Heston, has the woman, who still cannot speak English, take him to the ape village. A military ape rants about war, invasions, the need to conquer. A female ape mutters against the war. The man ape wins. The Heston clone is captured, escapes. I lose track, wander off. Mom still dozes. [Later, I find that the movie was the 1970 sequel, _Beneath the Planet of the Apes_.]
--Something has changed for me. This visit is easier than before. I am used to seeing my mother like this. She doesn't talk, smiles only occasionally, stares at the TV or into space, slumps over, sleeps a bit. I wonder why it feels easier now. Why there's less need to lock in, hold everything in memory until later in the motel room, though I have. I try to remember which residents are gone. There was the woman with the dolls around her neck; the woman who carried a kleenex box wherever she went; the woman who seemed European. Others I do remember: the grandmother who could not remember how many grandkids she had. Dr. F still has room, memory box. A Rev. B wanders the halls, as if to minister to the residents. It takes time to realize he is one.
--Amber, who works the front desk, still hasn't sent me inauguration photos. She recommends a Vienna restaurant, Maple Avenue, where I go for dinner. Beef stew. Reminds me of home. Reminds me this is not.
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