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Erica K

Erica K
Location
New Jersey, USA
Birthday
September 26
Bio
Grew up in Jackson Heights, New York, but now live in Jersey. Married and the proud owner (servant?) of 4 cats, including a little blind guy named Quincy. Jobs have included: English teacher in U.S. and abroad, cabaret performer and member of a NYC sketch comedy troupe; now a legal secretary and freelance writer. Other jobs: canvasser for NYPIRG/cannery worker in Naknek, Alaska (a fisherman told me it was "the ugliest part of Alaska")/dog kennel cleaner/member of the swine and poultry crew on a California farm. "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." Samuel Beckett Currently performing my solo show, "Alzheimer's Blues," at Stage Left Studio in NYC. http://stageleftstudio.net/ www.ericaherd.com

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APRIL 9, 2012 10:06AM

Hobbling Down the Bunny Trail

Rate: 9 Flag

 This is what Easter 2012 felt like to me:

 

night_of_the_lepus_fangs
 Angry mutant bunny from Night of the Lepus 
As a kid I enjoyed the hell out of Easter. I was a pious Catholic and gave up things for Lent, did the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, and went to Easter vigil mass with my family on Holy Saturday or morning mass on Sunday. Mom prepared delightful Easter baskets full of treats. We went to Easter brunch at the Players Club in Manhattan.

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.

 

Felix and his bag of tricks

 

 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.

“Yes.”

“I didn't think you were coming,” she said.

“Why?”

“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.

“It's okay.”

Easter ain't what it used to be. 


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I've gone through so many similar visits with my parents... "Love isn't love till you give it away," at least you have that.
Right you are, jmac. Thank you for saying that.
Keep writing and keep your sanity Erica.
Understanding is the key to the kingdom.
Her Easter's aren't the same either, but you finally got your mother to focus on some spring's brightness. I like what jmac said...
Erica..so loving and so kind and she needs you so much. Funny and Lovely.
Sorry you had yet another trying time. You are doing your best.
Thanks, mission, trying my best to stay sane. Writing and a sense of humor help.

I know, beauty, thanks.

Cindy, thank you. xo

Mary, it's okay, thanks. Trying to keep my head above water. Hope you had a better Easter than me, LOL.
You pretty much defined the word "empathy" for your readers. My own mother did not live long enough for me to have to go through something like this, but I could identify totally with what you were feeling.

But despite it all, you are lucky to have her still in your life.

Well done!
Thanks for putting things in perspective, Dorien. She has Alzheimer's, which sometimes makes her very difficult to be with. At other times, she is a joy to be with. I try to take the bad with the good.
I was thinking of you yesterday and hoping all was going ok. I'm sorry it was a tough day. You have so much love you readily give your mom, appreciating the good and dealing best you can with the bad. You have so enriched your mom's life with your love. I hope that will always be of comfort to you. Xxo
That's a tough Easter and a tough issue to deal with, Alzheimer's. It helps others to hear what struggles you face and how you face them too. Thank you for sharing!
That's kind of you, Joanne. Thank you.

Painting the Stars, thank you for reading.
I am nearly there with my father and it breaks my heart. Hey, we are "hear" for you (only a prayer remains). Only Jesus himself could win this one.
R
Ash, I am sorry for what you are going through with your Dad. What a beautiful thing to say. Thank you.
I think that must be the same guy where my dad lived. Just remember, as the nuns used to say, you're paving your way to heaven. I wish there was something I could do to help. Just know you're not alone.
You are right about the lamb. She is right about that singer stinking. And, she is right that it is frightening out there too. Loved this sad and beautiful slice of life, Erica. Easter and Passover ain't want they used to be, for sure.
Hey, you used on of the buns from Night of the Lepus --- someone else who knows about that movie (I picked it as an Easter viewing fave on OS last year).

Unfortunately, your actual Easter Day was a whole lot less fun than Lepus.
Barbara, the musician really did stink--kind of reminded me of Bill Murray's airport lounge singer on SNL.

fernsy, I hate lamb (as a food), the smell of it repulses me, and yes, the singer was God awful. Thanks, my dear.
My my, what a loooong strange trip, huh. You tell it well.
Various Artists, I would have preferred to have stayed home watching "Night of the Lepus." LOL.

Chicken Maaan, strange it was, my friend.