Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Like a Fish Out of Water (10/24/13)
- TITLE: Home Sweet Home
By Dannie Hawley
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“They’ve moved me to my daughter’s place.” Keeping the phone at her ear, she turned to ask me, “What’s your name again?”
Fortunately, she remembered, because hearing her words rendered my vocal chords immobile. Staggering a bit, I sat down on her just-moved sofa, in her condo; we’d been there for almost two hours, trying to get her things put back in drawers and closets. Never before had she demonstrated any difficulty remembering my name. Since I had flown more than eight thousand miles to move her back to the condominium she’d called home for eighteen years, it’d never occurred to me that she’d think it my home. An overwhelming fear gripped my heart.
Two years earlier, my sisters had moved mother to what I termed the “Hilton of retirement centers.” Nevertheless, Mom hated it at this gorgeous facility. At some point during every phone call, Mom told me just how much she longed to go home to her condo.
The previous winter, I crossed both the Great Pond and the continental United States to spend the winter in Mom’s condo, while my younger sister and her husband winged their way to the Texas sun and two precious little granddaughters. I visited Mom daily, bringing her home for a few hours now and then.
Though I urged Mom to spend the weekend at the condo with me, she refused, saying it would just make her cry too much to have to return to the retirement center. No, she wouldn’t be sleeping at the condo until she was home again.
Each time she crossed the threshold of her two-bedroom unit, Mom had the same declaration. “Oh, how I do love my little condo.” Since I’d heard the same for as many years as she and Dad had lived there--plus the ten years since his homegoing, I totally expected moving day to be the happiest day of her aging years. I could hardly wait to hear her joyful expression. It never happened; she had no idea she was home.
The doctors assure us that Mom doesn’t have Alzheimer’s; nor does she suffer from dementia. She is ninety-one-years-young and in great physical health. I knew that the stress of living in the large center contributed to her memory struggles. I’d noticed her once razor-sharp intelligence slipped a cog now and then, but she often managed to re-gain her ground. I’d always comforted myself that this would improve when she got back to her beloved condo. Had I been wrong?
When bedtime came, I tried to steel myself for the unexpected, but it still took me by surprise. Mom needed step-by-step instructions on preparing for bed. “Things’ll look better in the morning, Mom; you’ll see. You’re home now.”
In the morning, my dear little mother’s turmoil in dressing herself mirrored the evening before when undressing. “What should I be doing now?” followed each and every move—including every completed action—be it a meal, a trip to the bathroom, or being handed the day’s mail. Her fearful behavior reminded me of a released prisoner-of-war. Her ability to accomplish each task had not been impaired, only the ability to initiate the action.
Standing with my arms around her, I again comforted both of us as best I could. “You’re home now, Mom; this is where you belong. It’ll be okay.” Leaning back to face her, I continued. “You know, Mom, coming back home makes us feel a bit like fish out of water, doesn’t it? I’ve lived away for nearly a quarter of a century; it feels odd to be back here for more than a brief visit, even though it’s my own culture. After longing to be back in your condo for two years, being back seems strange and uncomfortable just now.” I gently squeezed the thin frame, made so frail these past two years, and whispered the words every mother wants to hear, “I love you, Mom, now and forever. We’re going to make it. With God’s help, all things are possible.”
It’s been two full weeks now, and God’s on the job. Mom still needs some direction, but not every step. Though she doesn’t seek my hugs as she always did, she does seem to relax when my arms encircle her. We are going to make it!
This is a true story.
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