With or Without Caffeine

I am almost tiptoeing down Mom’s hallway this morning, the silence overwhelming.  Is everyone napping?  In their rooms?  In activities, though the room looked empty upon first inspection.
I come upon Mom, seated in her regular vinyl chair, in the far corner of the TV room.  Six other women are present in the room, some snoozing, others watching The Andy Griffiths show, one whistling along.
“There she is,” my mother greets me. This is her standard phrase when she first notices me coming towards her.
“Well, hi Mom, how are you?”
She repeats after me a lot.  “How are you?” then quickly segues to her, “well its right there.”  She points to the vacant magazine rack, no running commentary, she simply wants me to know it exists, and that she has questions about why it sits empty.
We nuzzle for hugs, and she tugs at my fleece.  “Hey, I like that.”  I tell her she has the exact same fleece, only in pink, and she questions me, “Where?”
“In your room?”
“Where is that?”
Her room is right around the corner from where we are located, but I let this drop.
She is giggling now, at the sight of me. Her eyes, which I expect to be sleepy, are wide open, I can almost see inside her mind. If only.
“Hey, let me see that,” she reaches over to take hold of my short coffee cup, filled with a vanilla latte.  Normally, I would have ordered decaf at this point in the morning, but I was feeling risky and went with a regular.
She sips on the coffee, licks her lips, while we discuss the rain. “Look at you, you have water on you.”
“Its pouring, outside.” I emphasize pouring, for the remaining audience.  Many heads shake.  “Oh no,” one whispers while D., who is typically nonresponsive, perks up and mumbles in our direction. What I don’t know, but I am surprised by the mere fact she is attempting to speak.
Dominiki strolls by. She loves Mom.  She sits with us for a few moments, while Mom keeps asking, “Hey, what’s this,” referring to Dominiki’s tattoo on her arm.
Suddenly, Mom is giggling.  Then, out and out laughing.
“Mom, you have the giggles today.”
“Oh, I do?  Well, I guess I do.”  She bursts out in laughter some more.
On a dismal morning such as today, I would have expected her to be fast asleep, a little Sinatra or Glenn Miller turned up in her room.
Instead, she is moving constantly, like a character in an arcade game. I cannot keep track of her.  She proceeds to sit in the chair in the kitchen, the only chair.  I call it the Chairman of the Board chair. She can oversee the food preparation, the medication dispensation, the parade of residents marching up and down the hall to meals or activities, the entrance to the Tub and Shower Rooms, and the dining area.
She lords over the kitchen as a famed chef might, but from a seated position.
I hop on over to follow her, asking her to get up, because there is nowhere for me to sit.
“Do you want to walk?”
“No,” she responds plainly. The nurse, caregiver and other residents laugh.  I laugh.  Mom out and out falls out of her seat she is laughing so mightily.
When she is finished with the giggles, she does however stand up.  I guide her down the hallway, as she reads out the names on the doorways.  “E. Swiss helm,” she stumbles, attempting to pronounce the last name.  “Now what is that?”
First, I try to articulate the name. “Its Swisshelm, like you know the head of the Swiss.”
She looks at me like I am that one who has lost her mind.
“What is that?”  and she yanks on my arm until I can properly explain the last name.
One more shot at humor. “Its an elm. Like a tree.  Only its Swiss.”  This explanation she believes and then starts to laugh, this time holding her stomach.
She still hasn’t stopped chuckling, as we stroll down the hall, and towards Coffee Hour.  She enters the room, and makes her entrance grand, by reading whatever is written in the board, “Participating in Meaningful Programming Moments at Arden Courts.”  I have heard this before, about a thousand times.  I am going to suggest an LED sign in its place, so the wording can be modified daily. I am always making suggestions for improvement, given the time I spend with Mom at Arden, and the lack of diversions while there.
The table of residents stop to listen to Mom read, then immediately continues with their parallel conversations, unimpressed.
Mom reaches for my arm again, “C’mon, let’s go down here.”
We make our way to the far end of the room, where she can observe the Black-eyed Susan garden that has yet to sprout.  I pray they planted other flowers in there too this season, just to mix up my view, not necessarily hers.
She turns from the rain riddled window.  The male residents in the room, all four of them, are positioned at this end.  She motions towards E., a decidedly younger male with round eye glasses and curly hair. “Hey, look at that one.”
“That one, Mom, what are you talking about?”
She has never spoken of an interest in any men, other than B.’s grandson who often appears in suit and tie, carrying a bag of Burger King French fries. And he she notices, mainly because she wants some of his fries.
“You know, that one.”
Not only is Mom showing interest in a male, but she is continuing with a line of thought, despite distractions all around.
Mom nudges me with her elbow, and raises her almost nonexistent eyebrows, “Yeah.”
We chuckle together, and a roomful of eyes cast their sights upon us, hurt to be left out of a joke they wouldn’t understand.
I situate Mom in chair near that end then tell her I have to leave. She no longer laughs, curses at me instead.  I walk out with my head held high, despite the reprimand just received.

Amazing moments still transpire in Mom’s life, with or without caffeine. Amidst the backdrop of an ordinary routine, I sometimes miss these singular moments.  But they are there, however fleeting. 



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