“Boy, boy, crazy boy!
Stay loose, boy!
Breeze it, buzz it, easy does it.
Turn off the juice, boy!
Go man, go,
But not like a yo-yo schoolboy.
Just play it cool, boy,
Stephen Sondheim (lyrics)/Leonard Bernstein (music)
I saw Mom today, as I usually do on a Sunday afternoon. As usual, I tried to play it cool. Not ice cube cool, but tolerant, and open to the unexpected, not letting any aberrant behavior surprise me. Hell, aberrant should be my middle name.
I brought her the usual thermos of coffee and grapes (she keeps asking for fresh fruit and salad) and a tuna salad wrap I prepared at home. When I arrived on the third floor, she wasn’t in her room but in the day room, asleep in her wheelchair, as were several residents. I was greeted by the friendly lady outside the elevator whose name I still don’t know (shame on me), but who always greets me except for one time when she scowled and wouldn’t speak.
I told Mom how my cats Quincy and Karl loved the tuna water which I gave them while preparing the tuna salad. I asked if her cat Mouse (deceased since last March) liked tuna water.
“I don’t think so,” she said.
Her face was a tapestry of confusion and anxiety.
“Is Mouse dead?” she said. “I haven’t been feeding her.”
“Mouse is fine,” I said. “She’s staying with us, and she’s well-fed.”
Liar, liar, pants on fire.
I didn’t know what else to say. Mouse had stomach cancer and we had her euthanized last March, and Mom saw her corpse (her request) and pet her and said how pretty and well-cared for she looked. I thought the case was closed, but I was wrong. Suddenly, Mouse lives!
Was I wrong to tell her that she was still alive? Somehow I thought she’d be more upset If I said she was dead. Something else for her to ruminate about in her lonely hours at the nursing home.
Anyway, it was difficult to get off the topic of Mouse, despite my efforts to stay cool and easygoing. I took Mom for a walk outside in her wheelchair. I remembered to keep one hand on her shoulder so she wouldn’t forget I was there. The one time I removed my hand, she said, “Erica, are you there?”
I wonder sometimes if I am there at all.
We ended up parked outside Park Gardens and sat for a bit.
I told her I had sinus surgery on Thursday but it was local anesthesia and I was fine, just a bit swollen and tired.
“Shouldn’t we go inside?” she said. Then she started prattling on about my eye and some gibberish I didn’t understand.
I assured her I was fine and dandy.
“Isn’t it good to feel the sunshine and the air?” I said.
“Yes,” she said, smiling.
That’s all I needed to hear.
When we returned to her room, she didn’t want me to leave. This has been happening more and more. So I stayed a few more minutes. We drank coffee and watched Chef Pepin on Channel 13. He makes wonderful dishes.
By the time I left, there was no more talk of Mouse and her mortality. Mouse lives, at least to Mom and me. She is a stuffed animal on Mom’s bed; she was Mom’s only companion for many years. In that sense, she is still with us.
Stuffed Animal "Mouse" on Mom's bed
(I gave to her after Mouse passed away)
On the drive home, I was craving a Cosmo. I wanted something pretty and pink to assuage my feelings of discontent even though I’ve never been a girly-girl. I didn’t think we had Triple Sec—we lost so much in Hurricane Irene last year—so I stopped at ShopRite and bought Cranberry juice and lime juice and a few other things.
No Triple Sec at home, so I substituted Bacardi Gold Rum. I have to say that the results are more than satisfactory.
Here’s to staying cool and Cosmos! Hoping you are all having a mellow, cool Sunday.