Friday, June 06, 2008


The memory unit where my mom is living is a wonderful, caring place. They have so many activities for the folks who are spending their remaining days there; activities that bring a smile to the face of these elderly moms and dads, grandpas and grandmas, who often can remember 50 or 60 years ago, but couldn't tell you what they ate for lunch. Every time I spend time there I leave with a smile on my face, but a tear in my eye and an ache in my heart.

There is the gentle old man who carries around a baby doll. He carefully lays the bundle on the sofa on the blanket, and sits right next to his baby, sometimes for hours. They have a cradle for him too, and he can tuck the baby away for the night and gently rock it before heading down the hall to his room. I love to watch this man, and just know that he was a wonderful dad and grandpa.

Sometimes the staff sits with a particular man or woman and plays a card game. Rules don't make any difference. Just the action of throwing down a card and laughing lets you know that this person used to enjoy playing games with their family and friends. There are weekly games of bingo, and bowling in the hallway. Some of the residents participate, some don't.

Yesterday I was on the ward with my mom, and we were sitting in the commons area having coffee. One of the girls put on a CD of old music and then passed out songbooks so we could sing along. Only a couple of us were singing, most were just sitting there, maybe drumming their fingers on the arm of the chairs in time to the music, or smiling with some distant memory. All of a sudden I heard a lovely voice singing perfect harmony. The voice was coming from the table next to ours, but the only person sitting there was an elderly woman who never talked. Well, maybe she didn't talk, but she sang beautiful harmony to all the old songs, songs she must have heard back during WWII! It was lovely!

Then I heard my mom's voice. She was sitting in her wheel chair, next to me, and she was singing along to My Wild Irish Rose. Was this a favorite of her youth? Did it spark a memory in her mind? Why this song and none of the other 20 or 25 songs? She didn't sing along very long, but this was the last song I sang. The lump in my throat was getting in the way of the sound.

7 comments: said...

Beautiful! It makes me want to go visit some of these people that maybe don't have family as wonderful as you who are there.

Thanks for the inspiration and the beautiful story.
The Park Wife

Russell said...

Goodness! That is so, so true, though!

My mother has Alzheimer’s though she still lives at home - with the help of a lot of people... She is not to the stage of wandering away yet. She sleeps a lot and is very disoriented most of the time.

A few months ago someone said something about a big tornado that hit a small town close to our farm. She looked at us and without even thinking about it said "Yes, that was October 14, 1966." Isn't that something?

So the mind is a very complicated thing. Someday I hope we understand Alzheimer’s, but I think it will be a few generations down the road...

Take care.

Memaw's memories said...

I think you have chosen the perfect place for your mom. I know you were thrilled to hear her sing along. It probably did stir a memory otherwise long forgotten. Hopefully it took her to a happy place if only for a moment.

Lisa J said...

And the tears streaming down my face don't help when you are trying to read. That is just so sweet and wonderful. I am not looking forward to this stage of life with my parents or self for that matter. I hope I am as strong as you and will have the courage to go and visit and sit and sing, and just love. You are a wonderful example. Thanks for sharing.

Linda up north said...

Oh, I have a lump in my throat too. How very wonderful that you can spend these times with your mom.

Linda B. said...

You paint such a beautiful picture for me to see this happening. This home seems like a wonderful caring place. Like your first commentor said, it makes me want to spend time with folks who don't have regular visitors. How sad, but how beautiful to bring out some far away memory for them. I'm sure this song will be special to you from now on. My prayers continue.

IzzyBeth said...

Wow. I guess I needed a good cry today. My Grandma LOVED that song. Every time I hear it, I think of her.