We went to see Cheryl’s mother yesterday. She recently had another “step down.” When one of these events happens she becomes nonresponsive for a few days and gradually improves, but never to the level she was before the event. I was thankful she recognized us and called our names. She was conversational but not coherent. There were no connected clauses or clear flow of thought. She was slumped to her right side and unable or unwilling to sit up. Yet, she was in enough control to hold (in the sense of balance on the table) a container and drink from a straw.
She was in good spirits and again seemed to focus on me. I sat next to her and we smiled at each other. Keep in mind this is the woman who refused to use my right name for the first ten to fifteen years that she knew me. After a while Cheryl and her sister, Ruth, stepped to Thelma’s room to take care of something, leaving the two of us together in the activity room with several residents who were watching an old Van Johnson movie (For those under fifty, I have provided the link).
Thelma looked at me, smiled and spoke, “I like looking at you.” (Perhaps, with her dimmed eyesight, I favor Van Johnson.)
I chuckled nervously and responded, “Thanks, Thelma, you and I have had some good times through the years.”
She looked puzzled and replied, “What are you saying?”
“I think we have had some good times, don’t you?”
She shook her head, frowned and added, “You confuse me.” I guess our sparring matches have not been as meaningful for her as they have for me. The irresistible force met the immovable object and eternity will tell who won.
When Cheryl and Ruth returned I shared the exchange with them. Thelma buried her face in her hands like an embarrassed child and she chuckled.
If you have known me long or read this blog consistently you may remember that Thelma’s first words to me when we met in the spring of 1974 were, “Sonny Boy, your hair’s too long.” To which I replied, “Sister Girl, yours is too short.”
Over the past couple of years Thelma has on occasion stroked my short hair and asked if I liked it “that way.” I always said that I did and she always offered, “It’s all right.”
As we were visiting yesterday, Thelma kept reaching up and brushing the front of her own hair. Finally, she spoke, “Your hair is too short.” We have come full circle.
I have found that in these excursions into the twilight of consciousness, I often find illumination; Thelma has come to like me even if she will never like my blond, straight hair. I once told her I would be the best friend she had if she would let me, but I would not let her boss me around. Perhaps it is self-delusion, but I want to believe that in the recesses of her self-awareness she has finally come to accept me as her friend.
November 30, 2010