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 My Story: "THE HOTEL"

HealthBy Rainbow Painter

We moved Mother on January 2, at the recommendation of her doctor, to the local Alzheimer's Assisted Living facility, which she refers to as "The Hotel".

I wasn't sure as to how this was really going to play out on that early morning as I was preparing the move and organizing the timing and boxing up her precious belongings from around her own bedroom and from throughout her home. My hopes were jetting here and there as I was choosing the right things in which to hopefully keep her memory fresh and revealing of times, people or places.

She was a bit anxious, as was I, and I'm sure with her sensitivity being aroused by my anxiety level, she knew something was up with me that morning. She asked me the same question she asks of me every morning, "Are you going anywhere and if you do, I want to go with you." I cautiously said to her that if and when I do decide, I would let her know.

So as she is getting dressed and asks of us our opinion of her choice of clothing for the day and if she looked nice, which of course, she looks beautiful everyday, but it's an acknowledgment of approval she seeks from us daily, I am gathering strength for the ride we are about to take to "The Hotel". The dreaded drive I will never forget. ...

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I tell her it's time to go to town and for her to get her coat on and gather up her pocketbook, her circle the word books, which she takes everywhere we go and her caffiene free diet coke, that she managed to request at a weakened moment of thought to let her have that morning at 8:30 AM after her morning pancakes with maple syrup. A collision with a sugar rush just waiting to happen and I'm not sure if I am prepared for that, but I allowed it to happen.

She excitedly gets into the car and buckles up and immediately turns on the heater that is blowing cold air. I sit in silence with my thoughts of this being the last time she'll be "in control" of her surroundings. As we drive down the road to our destination, she says to me as she touches my arm, "I love you, thank you for taking me to town with you. I love going to town."

My heart is ripping and my stomach is inching it's way up to my throat that I can barely breath while holding back the tears. I keep my eyes focused on the road and making sure not to even give her a glance or I would surely loose my control. I just quietly said, "I love you too Momma."

That was the longest and yet the shortest drive I've ever made and I'm not sure how I got there other than by the grace of God guiding the steering wheel.

I pull up in front of "The Hotel" and she says to me that she will just stay in the car and wait for me. I panic for a second and then calmly ask her to come in with me and to bring all her items with her, that I needed her to be with me while I speak with someone inside. She questioned as to if it was all right to bring in her drink and her books of entertainment, as I refer to them as such anyway. I reassured her that it would be just fine for her to bring along all that she brought with her.

She doesn't recognize the place that she has frequented several times before or the people that greeted us at the door. My heart was relieved and yet troubled at the same time. I wanted her to remember. I wanted her to say, "Why are we here again?" or "What are we doing here, again?", but she didn't.

We were greeted at the door with a warm and loving "There you are! We were just talking about you and couldn't wait to see you." The director of the facility took her by the hand and led her away from me and to a room with others who were preoccupied in a project. She waved to me and I told her that I would be back later to check on her. She was telling everyone that she was glad to be there and that she loved them. I was lost. I was confused. I was alone.

I got back to the house to meet with my siblings who were instructed to be at the house to start gathering up and loading up the essentials for mother's new home at "The Hotel" while I had taken Mother to the facility.

I'm not sure how we managed to get everything loaded and packed and boxed up as well mark her clothing and pertinent items with her initials and room number. I felt like I was tossed back into time of when I went to summer camp and all my items had to be initialed and now I was doing this for my mother's items, but she won't be coming back home from camp.

My stomach is feeling like a volcano ready to erupt. My head is spinning from all the chaos and frustrations of emotions running rampart and trying to guard my siblings from the anguish of this event.

I remind myself that I have to be the brave one. I have to be the one to bear the brunt of explaining to mother why we are setting up an empty room with her own personal belongs of comfort and cherished items of momentos from her personal life. We worked as a team with a deadline to meet. We're racing against the clock, before she figures it all out?

That's what I really wanted. I wanted her to figure it out and catch us in the act, to stop us from all this madness we've been living for the past 20 months, but she can't and she won't. We load up, we drive the road to begin a new stage in our life and wondering how we ease her into this new world, a better world, a world of new friends who are just like her.

We drive in convoy and pull up to the side door of the facility in which we are let in by someone from the inside because it's guarded like Fort Knox. We walk down a corridor and enter into the community room and hear the loudest music with dancers entertaining the residents of the place and we proceed on to organize her new "hotel room" for permanent living.

We bought her new bedding for her own bed. We placed her items in such a way that represented her elegance and delicate manner. Soft colors with frilly touches and gentle softness everywhere, including her bathroom shower curtain with appliqued butterflies fluttering from the bottom. We arranged the graduation pictures of her most precious blessings, her grandchildren, on the wall beside her bed along with the 51 year old photo of her wedding day, with her husband of 50 years ever present with her, watching over her from their photo of their special day.

With her television all set to view from her bed or the coziness of her recliner chair wrapped in a soft blanket, and her cherished momentos from years past and present arranged on the entertainment center, we then hung up her delicate embroidered curtains that will let the sun shine in her room to wake her gently in the mornings. Just like her room at home, we did it the best we could.

Presentation time..........she enters the room and sees what we've done. She sits on the bed and the first thing she says, "I'm ready to go home now."

Silence covered the room like a hush from loud speaker. She grabbed my hand and asked me, "When can we go home?"

I sat beside her and looked into her eyes and held her frail hand and kissed it and told her that this was her new home now. She squeezed my hand and said, "I love you." Tears are choking my words but not spilling out yet. I explained to her that her doctor has recommended that she get the best care possible and that this is the place she needs to be in order to have the best care possible because we all want what is best for her and for her to continue to be healthy and happy. So then she asks if we will be coming back to her. I reassured her that yes, we will always be coming back to her and spending time with her here, in her "Hotel Room".

We each had our moments with her that day and we each have our recollection of that day to hold dear to us when we need to have her with us in our hearts. She stood at her window in her room and watched as we drove away, one by one, she waved to us and blew a kiss to each of us as we passed by her window. When I got home, sat in her bedroom and cried.

Five days later: It's still fresh in my heart and mind. I hope it always will be a memory that is never forgotten. But I know she's forgotten it. Since then she has broken her glasses, which we got repaired for her. I took her some magazines that she enjoys looking through even though she's looked at them more times that I can count, but she enjoys finding the needle in them, which is a game this particular magazing has to entertain folks. I also took her the valuable memories of yesterday to her. The annuals from the years she was a teacher at the local elementary school as well as her church directory with photos of members of her church. We fixed up her "Memory Photo Box" which is right outside their room by their door for the residents to recognize in order to find their own room. We placed pictures of the family at our Christmas gathering along with the emblem of a t-shirt commemorating the year she retired from teaching kindergarten after 32 years. We placed a slate board with her name written in chalk to greet the visitors when they come looking for her room. She gave us direction in which to place the objects and then bragged about how beautiful it was to everyone. She's settling in now and each day is a bit easier for us. We find great comfort in knowing that she's comfortable and happy and always glad to see us when we visit her. It feels good to be the "good guy" again and take her special gifts each time we visit and not be the "mean one that won't let her do this or do that anymore". Yep, it feels good to be on the good side of life with her again.


[28 August 2010]

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