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.