This is what Easter 2012 felt like to me:
As I grew, Easter held less and less significance to me. I like the idea of renewal and new life and new beginnings, but I never understood why leg of lamb was the traditional meal, considering that Jesus is the Lamb of God. Seems kind of cannibalistic to me.
Back to the topic at hand: this year's Easter. My husband Lorin and I were planning to go to his relatives on Long Island for 2:00 Easter dinner, as has been our tradition for the last several years. I thought we might bring Mom too, and perhaps bring her back to the house for an overnight stay. Then I realized Mom might not be up for it: she has not been feeling well the past couple of days. New plan: we would drive to Mom's, I would gauge how she was doing, and determine if she was up for the trip to Long Island. If she wasn't, I would stay with her and Lorin would go to LI on his own.
Mom was definitely not up for it, so I texted Lorin to go on without us. It was approximately 12:45 p.m. One of the residents at the nursing home told me there was a party at 2:00 on the first floor and I asked Mom if she wanted to go. She said no. I could taste her anxiety. I presented her with a hyacinth plant and a card and brought my usual bag of tricks, like Felix the Cat.
I brought the usual thermos of coffee and Dunkin donuts and we shared them. I brought the film Enter Laughing, a 1967 Carl Reiner comedy she used to love, on DVD and had downloaded CDs of Mary Martin and Chris Botti onto my iPhone for her. Last week, we listened to an Oscar Hammerstein CD on my iPhone—hooked up to mini speakers.
“It's Easter Sunday?” she said.
“I didn't think you were coming,” she said.
“Because I thought you'd have something to do.”
Trick #1, a film
I plugged in the portable DVD player and started the film. Still the anxiety. She started chanting “jesu, jesu,” which she does in times of extreme duress.
“Do you want to watch the film?” I said.
“Not now,” she said.
“How about going to the party?” I said.
“I'm not in the mood,” she said.
I made an executive decision. “Let's go just for a little while.”
Trick #2, a social event
When we arrived, the party was already I progress. The musician played standards on his electronic keyboard in a kind of smarmy, pseudo-Mel Torme voice. I wasn't crazy about him (had heard him at previous parties), but what the hell. I thought Mom might enjoy.
Within minutes she expressed her displeasure.
“He stinks!” she shouted.
“Mom, be quiet,” I said in a low voice.
He was in the middle of “When You're Smiling,” when she burst out, “What is there to smile about? We're all sitting here!”
“Calm down,” I said. “People are trying to listen.”
She started breathing heavily, and I saw a vein pop out on her forehead.
“Let's stay a few more minutes,” I said.
At the end of the song, I wheeled her out.
The elevator operator gave me a “whatthehell” kind of look, and I said to her, “She's having a bad day.”
Back in her room, I tried Trick #3, a cooking show. Lidia's Italy is one of her favorites. We drank some more coffee and watched.
“Let's go out,” she said abruptly.
“Okay. Let me get a pass from Nurse Bell.”
I draped her pink shawl on her shoulders and, pass and pocketbook in hand, headed to the elevator. Again the look from the elevator operator. I smiled back at her.
Trick #4, outside
Once outside, Mom almost immediately freaked out as I wheeled her down Broadway towards 260th Street.
“The other direction,” she said in a stilted, anxious voice, as she started the sibilant “jesu” mantra again.
“Okay.” I was at the end of my tether.
She said she wanted to go in the other direction, but when I told her we'd have to go over a bump and it might hurt her, she said no.
“Let's just sit here,” she said. I positioned her chair outside the front door of Park Gardens, put it in the lock position, and sat on the bench next to her.
“It's a beautiful day,” I said, “all the trees are in bloom.”
“Yes,” she said, “but it's frightening.”
“Why is it frightening?”
“They're not fully in bloom; something's wrong,” she said.
God help me.
She took my hand in hers and said, “It's all so frightening.” I imagined the flowers with gaping maws ready to swallow us whole.
“Try to take some deep breaths,” and I showed her how. That didn't work either. I applied some chapstick to her dried out lips.
After a few minutes, we returned to her room and I turned to Channel 13, a show about Jerusalem and Jesus. It was fascinating. Mom could not sit still and wanted to take a “spin” around the floor. I watched TV by myself for a while, then joined her in the hall. I was spent.
At around 3:00, I texted Lorin, “I think I'll take the bus home.” I could take the local bus to the #1 subway at 242nd Street, then take the #1 to 42 Street and get the bus back to Jersey.
During our last few minutes together in the room, Mom said, “A bell's not a bell till you ring it. A song's not a song till you sing it. Love in your heart wasn't put there to stay. Love isn't love till you give it away.” It was what she remembered from the show on Oscar Hammerstein a couple weeks ago. We recited it together a few times.
“That fills up the room,” she said, referring to the hyacinth plant.
“Yes,” and I brought it to her face so she could take a good whiff.
“I'll water it a little each day,” she said.
“Okay, but not too much.”
“I'm sorry,” she said.
Easter ain't what it used to be.