I walk past the nurse’s station. It’s an odd time of day at Sugarloaf Manor. The residents are tucked into bed, but many are experiencing the effects of sun-downing syndrome. There are random cries and sporadic moans punctuating a mostly quiet hallway. The lights are lowered to a twilight setting to evoke a feeling of early evening. It is not quite the first day of summer, but the days are long and it is still light at 7p.m..
I find my mother in her room, surrounded by several familiar pieces of furniture. A photo of my father rests on just about every surface, even on the sink ledge in the bathroom. The windows are shut and there is a low hum emitting from the air conditioning unit on the wall. Shadows of maple leaves dance on the wall above Mama’s bed. Her eyes stare at the wall, seemingly without seeing a thing.
I kiss Mama’s cheek, “Hi, Mama. I have to get home to put the kids to bed. It’s been such a long day, but I didn’t want it to go by without visiting you.”
I drag a straight-back chair to the rail on the side of her bed and sit down.
“Was you day good?”
“Nurse Stafford said you ate some of your dinner and all of your ice cream. Remember how we used to go to the Sugarloaf Creamee for a triple scoop with caramel sauce and whipped cream?”
I stroke the back of her hand. Her head still has not turned toward me.
“I know something that might make you smile,” I offer. “I’m hiring Carl Lattner to come work at Whately Prep. You were such good friends with his father, weren’t you?”
Mama’s eyes remain vacuous.
“You remember Carl, Mama. He used to spend a lot of time at our house. I studied with him in high school. We used to go to UMASS Amherst footballs games with Dad?”
“Well, I came right here when I was done with school. Board meeting today. You know what those are like.” I gave an exaggerated roll of my eyes, playing to an empty house.
“I promised Sarah and the boys that I would get home in time to read to them. I wish I could stay longer, but I will be back in a couple of days.” My eyes rove around the room taking in if anything is amiss or lacking.
“Do you need anything, Mama?”
I squeeze her hand as I stand up and release it. She surprises me by grabbing my hand. “Hi, Mama, are you with me now?”
“Dear, would you please get my nurse?”
“Sure, Mama, I’ll get her -- but is there something I can do to help?”
“Yes, I’d like to call my daughter. I haven’t talked to her in the longest time.”
Funny how that lump in my throat refuses to dissolve before I speak.
“Okay, Mama, I’ll get your nurse. I know your daughter would love to talk to you.”
I kiss her forehead and walk out without stopping at the nurse’s station. Right about now, reading Dr. Seuss to Sarah or Harry Potter to the boys sounds really good.