And now this…
September 1, 2013
Alice called to tell me that her birthday flowers from Ketzel were missing.
“They were holding up just fine,” she said, “but then somebody threw them away.”
She wondered at first if I’d tossed them out as I was leaving after a visit earlier that day. I assured her I hadn’t.
“Assisted” living means a lot of interaction with caretakers, whether it’s needed or not. People open your door unannounced all day long to bring you medications, empty your wastebaskets, clean your room, fix broken doorknobs, etc. Alice’s favorite caretaker, Karen, sometimes drops in to visit and sit in front of the air conditioner to cool off from hours of being on the run.
We went over the list of people who had come and gone that day, but there were no likely suspects. It was Karen’s day off, the housekeeper hadn’t come, and only the morning and evening medication people had entered and left. These aides are always on a timeline too short to allow for cleaning up.
“I loved those flowers,” Alice said. “They were from Ketzel’s garden, and they were still fresh.”
Puzzled, we hung up.
The next day when she called to report on her day, she said she knew who had removed the flowers. “You’ll never guess who it was,” she said.
She was looking at the vases on top of the refrigerator, she said, and there stood the vase that had held the bouquet. All at once, she remembered removing the wilting flowers, putting them in the wastebasket, washing the vase, and putting it away. “It was me,” she said. “I did it.”
This has never happened before, this kind of complete forgetting. “I feel bad,” she said quietly. “Depressed.”
For some reason this 98th birthday is a marker. We both feel it. She has mentioned more than once that 98 feels quite different from 97. She’s been talking of dying more often lately (listen to Ketzel’s interview at the end of the birthday post, for one example of this). The past year has brought about a much greater loss of both sight and hearing. She has little to do any more. TV is hard to follow. Books, even large print books, are no longer an option. She can’t hear audio books. The jumble puzzles are hard to see. The other night she said she couldn’t see the food on her plate and had no idea what she was eating until she tasted it. She’s glad not to be in pain and considers herself lucky in so many ways, but really – must memory loss be added to all these other losses?
Neither of us wants to overreact to the flower incident, but there it is: an action taken, forgotten completely, then resurrected in one whole and sturdy memory that leaves no doubt as to what happened. And leaves no doubt as to what is actually missing, or at least showing signs of leaving.
It’s not hard to know what to wish for, it’s just hard to wish for it.