by Letty Watt
My friends, whose loved ones have suffered before with the trembles of aging say to me, “Go to her world. Just listen. Don’t criticize. Don’t explain. Don’t tell her she’s wrong or confused.”
My heart understands, but my mouth, too often, says the wrong things. At ninety-two my mother-in-law’s world is spinning out of control as her body bends, and her mind becomes entangled with what is real and what is imagined.
Sitting in the lobby at the assisted living center to watch people and chat with others is one of her favorite times of day. She needs people to interact with, and we are thankful that she’s still alert enough to get out of her room. Some days her reality is similar to ours, but more often than not her fears and recurring nightmares leave her nearly paralyzed with fear.
I watched my husband the other day, as he walked into his mother’s room. Her eyes were closed, and her head drifted to the side. Her hands, worn from decades of playing the guitar and piano, rested on her purse. Her walker stood in front of her knees and feet like a faithful dog, ready to assist her. My husband knelt on one knee and touched her hands. “Hi, Mom.”
Her head rose slowly and a gentle smile formed across her lips. The sparkle in her eyes seemed slow to shine. “Oh, Jack. I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve called you and called you.”
She looked up at me.
“I’ve called you both all day long. Please do something. Everyone is moving out fall today, and I need help. They’ve left me here alone. I don’t think I can drive myself.”
My heart raced upon hearing the fear and confusion in her voice. My husband calmly patted his mother’s hands, and remained on the floor eye-level with her.
“I’m sorry that’s happened Mom. I will take care of it. Remember that John and I will always find a way to keep you safe.”
She nodded and dropped her head slightly, “Can I go home now?”
“Mom, I’m here now. I won’t let anything happen to you. Oh, look out the window at the birds feeding.”
Her head lifted and turned to the sunshine in the window. “I like to watch out the window and see who is coming to visit. Yesterday, I saw John drive through the parking lot, but he didn’t stop to come see me. Why not?”
“I’m sure he drove by on his way to work and waved at you. He wanted you to know that you were safe. Do you have some pictures of the twins to show us?”
She shuffled through her purse, finding the present day in an envelope of pictures from her grandchildren.
Beaming with pride, she said, “They are so cute. Evelyn is walking now, and Eleora talks a lot. She’s just like me.” The sparkle returned to her eyes.
Writing soothes Letty Watt’s soul and clears her mind. She began writing a weekly blog over five years ago, with the purpose of building a repertoire of stories for telling aloud, but things changed. Now she writes because stories hidden in the recesses of her mind are begging to get out into the world. Check out her blog, Literally Letty, at https://literallyletty.blogspot.com.