Senior Prom – 6/22/2013
The borrowed gowns sparkled and bow ties were tied loosely around dress and golf shirts alike. Upbeat versions of Fly Me to the Moon and Bye Bye Blackbird were playing in the background as Arden Courts Memory Care held their senior prom.
I had arrived earlier in the evening to select a dress for my mother, a resident at Arden. A local church had donated prom dresses, suit coats and dress shirts, ranging in size and color. My mother, still her petite 4’10”, is a bit more rounded in the tummy, so finding an easy fit was utmost.
Sorting through the options, I ruled a few out based on color, some on style – she never wore strapless, many on size. I grabbed three dresses and hoped one would work.
The event was to be held after dinner, when Mom usually slept. But one of the caregivers helped to get Mom clean and dressed. Our first attempt was a long gold dress, gold lame bodice and satin from waist on down. After the exhausting process of zipping and tugging, Mom decided the bed was a better option. As she reclined, I slipped a pearl bracelet on her wrist and secured a band of pearls around her neck.
Her eyes were fluttering closed, but determinedly, I pulled her back up to sitting to place clip-ons, white roses surrounded by faux diamonds, around her ears. After returning her eyebrows to their former glory, and doing the same with lipstick, I convinced her to stand and view herself in the mirror. We both stepped back to admire her. “You look beautiful,” I remarked. And she turned and led me to her wedding day photo, and said, “Well, this too.” No translation was necessary.
As Mom walked down the halls, holding up her flowing golden gown, caregivers and guests alike stopped to comment on Mom’s appearance. She thanked them kindly or sometimes answered, “Oh?” and smiled inwardly and moved on. No one made mention of the seamstress’ trick – a clip on her dress in the back at the waist.
We arrived at the prom, a community room converted into party room. My husband Mark and son Davis, coaxed into joining me, arrived shortly after. As recognizable strains of music began, Mark asked Mom to dance.
Mom danced only for the first part of the evening, but even so, as she swayed with Mark, she occasionally threw her head back in laughter, and Davis commented, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Nana smile so much.” In reality he had, but I knew what he meant.
Only once Mom walked away, to see “what was happening outside.” My husband led her around the courtyard and returned, while Davis repeatedly answered another resident, who was searching for her parents and hometown. We never forget what is deeply seeded.
The evening went on, a little honky-tonk music added to the buoyancy of the event. One resident, Gloria, waltzed in wearing a cream two -piece gown, hair in an up-do, well, her style probably hadn’t changed in many years. She danced with Mark and when she asked if I was his wife “sitting there,” she commented, “let’s make her jealous.”
Pauline, dress still in her everyday blue jeans, sang karaoke with the DJ. The Doctor swung mostly while still seated in his walker. Davis danced with Ruth Ann, who was insistent on holding her stuffed rabbit, so their duo became a threesome. Many other scenes that I was not privy to describe so intimately played out through the night.
The evening ended in exhaustion, Mom returning to her corridor. Though she protested, I carefully removed Mom’s jewelry, letting her know we had many special occasions for which to a save them. I slid off her sandals that “sparkled”, like easing off the glass slippers, and returned her leopard-spotted slippers to her feet, for which she gave a sigh of relief.
As I walked away, already out of sight, I overheard a guest ask Mom, “Was that your daughter, did she dance with you tonight?” And Mom replied, “Well, I don’t know.”
In many instances, those replies are like daggers, but for one evening, I gave a prayer of thanks. For once, neither I, nor Mom’s caregivers were a bother for fussing over her. She rather enjoyed the heightened energy and attention. For once, guests and caregivers were fans standing on the sides of the red carpet, applauding the life Mom and the other residents had marshaled forth in those moments.
After many years, I have learned, by morning, these memories will have slipped out of their mind’s container and made a home in their hearts, and mine.