She’s wide-eyed and naïve but wise.
She’s impulsive and compulsive but has a steady gaze.
She’s childlike and her soul is chiseled with the wit of age.
She’s legally blind but more than sighted.
She’s win-at-trivial-pursuit brilliant yet simple and unknowing about relational nuance.
She’s part Rain-man, part Queen Elizabeth.
She’s Tasmanian devil and Bambi in equal parts. . So many contradictions.
So much to try to anticipate and know in one little feeble body.
I catch sight of her as I enter the dimly lit, drab dining hall. She is the one leaning forward against the table with her statuesque physique to try and say something louder so the hard-of-hearing gentleman across from her can hear what she is saying. “I’M SEVENTY FOUR, I SAID! DID YOU HEAR THAT? I SAID I’M SEVENTY FOUR YEARS OLD, MY BIRTHDAY IS IN AUGUST!”
I don’t mean for her to see me. I’m just planning to set her glasses down near her dinner menu so she has what she needs but doesn’t make a fuss over her daughter with her new friends. And then I hear it: “oooooooh~! There she is! My baby girl. Give me a kiss! Have you all met my daughter?
And that’s when the gentlemen across from her has finally developed the presence of mind to respond to her earlier comment about her age: “I’m 68. I’m old enough.” To which she retorts,”THERE IS NO WAY ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH THAT YOU ARE 68 YEARS OLD. YOU’RE 88 IF YOU’RE A DAY. DO YOU HAVE YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE? WHAT YEAR WERE YOU BORN?...” she continues to pepper him with question after question of inquisitive age exploration.
She is the youngest one in the dining hall. She is the sharpest one in the dining hall. She tends to “work the room” at dinner which just happens to be the only meal of the day she’ll eat in the dining hall, preferring instead to have a pizza delivered, to go out, or to just eat a small granola bar in her room while drinking a glass of Rose’. She is a wonder.
Years and miles are not the things responsible for her being in the assisted living residence. Rather, being widowed and handicapped from a stroke are the culprits to her new dwelling situation. She is sure she’s smarter, more vibrant, cooler, more sparkly and busier than anyone in that room. And by most counts, she’s right.
As spoons clink on institutional dishware, a sign of old people eating soft food, she continues to press this gentleman. She doesn’t realize that she is running laps around him proverbially in this conversation. He is working to hear, develop a response and say something and during that pause, she has said 2 or 3 more things. It’s confusing. It’s humorous though.
The other 2 at her table; Jay the retired truck driver who smiles all the time even when no one can understand a single word he’s saying, and Sadie; the supposed heir to the barbed wire fence company fortune out of Fort Worth. Jay and Sadie can’t keep up with her rapid fire questioning either and they watch with a gleam in their eye as I tip-toe backwards out of view of my mother so as to depart unnoticed or forgotten in lieu of more important matters that are more front-of-mind to her. …like, her dinner partner’s falsified age…
“…TOMORROW NIGHT AT DINNER MAKE SURE AND BRING YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE! I WANT TO SEE FOR MYSELF!!…”
Oh, I just LOVE the snapshots of your sweet, snappy Mama!! What great insight into her world. She lives in the tension between being utterly dependent in body and fiercely independent of mind. And her artwork is fantastic! I actually popped in for a quick visit the other day with Monet and we asked if she ever sells her paintings. Without hesitation she said, "No! But you can buy a beautiful high resolution canvas print if you'd like." I smiled. You go, girl. And you, my friend, are a very good daughter! It is no surprise to me that she is beyond proud to introduce you. You could be Miss America, you know..... :-)
You know . . . back in the day, your mom was not, "my very good friend's mom," like she is now. She was my Bible study leader all throughout my single years. For about six years, I spent almost every Thursday night at her (and your dad's) house for dinner and the building of my own faith. Not my parents faith, but my own. She was truly one of my most influential mentors in my life. I have a hard time reconciling the person she was, with the person she is, now. I am so far removed from her compared to you, so I can't imagine what that journey is like for you! Whenever, I see her now, my flesh wants the old Barbara. Yet, the new Barbara has so much to teach me in a different way. I actually do love that she paints now. Her stroke has birthed something new inside of her that may never have discovered otherwise. That is an easy one to see, but I know there are a lot more. There are new Barbarisms, that would never have been uncovered without this stroke. What is the plan here, God? I admire the way you walk this journey, Christina (and Barbara). What a rough road, that does not lead back to normal. Yet, we all trust with you and for you, that there is much unseen and seen, that God is doing. I can say, in every way, that pre stroke and post stroke, Barbara, has ALWAYS pointed me to Jesus. Now . . . it is just in a very different way.