Sunday night she was wearing her cotton salmon sweater and tights with both shoes on and matching green socks. Her face was deadpan. She sat in a chair next to the large TV Screen facing the residents who were watching the TV. She had on her fanny-pack, but her headphones were on the medicine cart. I put them on her, and she focused her eyes as she adjusted the fit until she smiled. I am not sure how often she enjoys them. She kept them on while I was with her.
She likes to go down to the lobby. I hugged her in the elevator and told her she was beautiful. She grinned. I said, “That was good. Can I give you another? “ Yes.” I hugged with my head on her other side. “There, that’s my left side hug.” She laughed, pushed me away. “Dad, stop.”
We had to eat dinner in her room with the new Covid- Omicron precautions. I took up the dinner with two small plates of shrimp and noodles, two chocolate marshmallow ice creams, and two cokes. Her two-person black table only held two small plates and the drinks. Lynne sat with one knee crossed over the other without eating before leaving to walk. She roamed the room until she opened the door and left. She frequently walked away from dinners in the lobby where I could watch her until she circled back to sit down. I wondered what to do up here? Walk with her as the food got cold?
I decided to brace the door open with a hand weight. I ate a few bites and decided to move my chair out to the doorway where I sat until she walked toward me. When she saw me, I invited her into dinner, but she sat on her bed. I was upset she was not eating dinner because her weight has dropped by over 20 pounds. I wanted this to work.
I stood over my plate to demonstrate eating the tasty shrimp, which lured her to the table to eat with her fingers until I got a fork inro hand. Then she left the room, and I went back to my seat in the doorway. I got some funny looks from caregivers, who helped point Lynne toward me. She returned and sat on her bed until she got up to sip her coke and left again. She came back to eat half of her ice-cream and later I spoon fed her the rest.
I wondered if she would watch TV, so I moved her table to where the stationary bike was located and moved it beside the window. I scanned channels until I got the Time/Life ads for 10 Bob Hope CDs with jokes, celebrities and beauties galore. She ignored it. Nothing worked, but I could not quit.
Sometimes she returned to sit on the bed calmly and sometimes in tears. I held her hand and said, “You’re safe now, you’re OK.” And she would settle down until she left again.
I took the tray out and shut her door. She and I walked, sometimes letting me hold her hand, sometimes folding it on her stomach and not letting me nudge it out. She had tears, turned down mouth and sagging face. She would purse her lips, grit her teeth, and pull away from me, saying, “I can do this.”
Finally, she returned to the chair by the TV with her arms folded and one knee crossed over the other staring in the distance with an expressionless face focused on the music in her headphones. She ignored an inappropriate savage war movie.
When it ended the nurse switched the channel to a peaceful video of Northern Lights to blend with the classical music from the Aegis hallway music. Lynne stood so I slipped off her headphones as she headed to the nurse who hugged her and said, “I’m always so happy to see you.” Behind Lynne’s back I waved thumbs up to the nurse and she nodded goodbye.
My thoughts are spinning around the increase in Lynne’s sad moods, restlessness, and awkwardness. I was disappointed, upset with myself. Why? I knew this was coming. I expected it. What did I expect of me? I expected, maybe hoped is a better word, to find ways to rinse away her sadness at every passage. I don’t like to feel like I’m failing. She’s failing, but I have trouble failing her. I’ve got to find news ways to help care for her. And give myself some grace, I guess.