“For these three women, life began at 50 years of age when they made the decision to be honest about themselves. Thankfully, they have shared their stories with us”Betty Friedan
I was in a writing class where we had an assignment to write a “recipe story.” It had to have ingredients, and directions for cooking and serving. Mine is titled “Dead Cat in Winter.” The recipes were just published in The Great Smokies Review, Spring 2021 edition. Enjoy.
Works in Process
Here is One Chapter of Life by The Slice: A Memoir of Sorts
The Nursing Home
Plantation, Florida 2008
I make the dreaded journey. It is on the calendar every month, but sometimes I stretch it to every other month. I get increasingly anxious on the plane. Duty has called me here and duty will get me through it. The plane sets down in Ft.Lauderdale just two hours from the snow. I wonder what it would be like to be coming for lazy days at the beach.
The rental car company is the cheapest available. Sometimes they can’t produce a car and sometimes I have to wait for one. I don’t mind. The waiting delays seeing mom. I sit on the cracked plastic chair in the rental office.
Dad has been gone for a year. He and Mom were separated at the nursing home in his last days. Mom would wander the halls looking for him and calling his name. She barely remembers him now. For 69 years, they held each other’s hands everywhere they went; first for love, then for stability of walking, and finally because my mother didn’t know where she was going without him. Mom now sleeps at least 18 hours a day. She recognizes no one but the aide she sees every day.
Alzheimer’s was Mom’s biggest fear. Her Mother had it for the last 10 years of her life. Mom cared for her mother, first at home, then every day in the nursing home. Mom hated her own failing memory, her inability to remember words. She fretted that maybe she had developed Alzheimer’s. We all denied it and reassured her she was just fine, that it was just age at work. But we were lying.
I thought it healthier for her to know what was happening to her, so I convinced Dad to tell her the truth.
Dad told Mom she has Alzheimer’s. She refused to believe it and was enraged with him for suggesting it. They argued. Dad was shaken.
“I will never do that again,” he said. “It is our rule that we say ‘I love you’ every night before we go to sleep. Last night your mother turned her back on me. I’m going to tell her I was mistaken about the Alzheimer’s.”
I drive the 10-miles to the nursing home, slower than I ever drive, anxiety making me inattentive. I dread, yet again, to see my once capable, determined mother in her current state of semi-consciousness. I park and sit in the car wishing to be anywhere but here. I pray for strength, take a deep breath, and walk into the building. I am hit with that horrible, never-to-be-forgotten smell of decay, urine, and death. It is always such.
I walk the long hall and stop in front of Mom’s room, unwilling to open the door and feel my own anguish. I go in only because an aide is coming down the hall. Mom is sleeping, faced away from me. I want to wait a minute before touching her, but she rolls over and opens her eyes. I don’t know how she knows anyone is here. She is deaf and her hearing aids are constantly lost. She stares at me. What is she seeing? Who does she think I am?
She focuses. “Jean, is that you or am I dreaming?”