It's been a week since I landed in Oklahoma to help with my mother at the nursing home, and I've got a week to go. It feels like another planet...everything is so tidy here in Bartlesville.
Mother has changed drastically since I was here in August. She doesn't recognize me, though she's friendly in her way and doesn't treat me like a stranger. I've noticed she isn't very familiar with my sister, who's been there just about every day, either.
I've been showing up around lunchtime to feed her each day, get her back to her room, brush her teeth and get her tucked in for a nap. She has physical therapy designed to help her use a walker when her broken hip has healed enough, but I have serious doubts she'll be able to walk again. She has forgotten what her hands and feet are for.
Today as I fed her bites of beef with gravy (which looked identical to the canned stuff you buy for dogs), she kept her eyes closed and babbled, only occasionally making sense, then breaking into a little song. Finally I demanded that she open her eyes and look at me, and she did! A little frightened at first, but then we both had a good laugh, and she shut them again. Oh, well... When I offered her a bite of cake with chocolate frosting and she had the whole table chuckling when she said, "That's doggone good."
The nursing home is short-staffed and my sister and I are always finding small problems, but what staff is there seems to be doing their best. We are warned by other people whose parents have been in this situation that some duties are done by staff just for show, and aren't done when the parent is alone.
To stave off depression, I went with my sister and brother-in-law to their choral rehearsals, preparing for their big annual fall concert Saturday, and was invited to join the chorus. It's wonderful, challenging music, including a piece in Italian and one in French. Judy will outfit me so I blend with the other choristers in their all-black, $100 outfits, and we'll sing in the Community Center, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright's son-in-law, and has fantastic acoustics including a unique telescoping band-shell. I know about the acoustics because last night I went by myself to see a touring company perform "Chicago" there. These are things I don't get to do in Mexico.
Every morning my sister and I walk their German Shepherd Fritz around the neighborhood, and it's been a bonus, getting to know her better. We have spent very little time together since we grew up. We've lived very different lives thousands of miles apart, and I always felt she disapproved of me so I didn't seek out opportunities to spend time with her. It's not easy having a saint for a sister. But we've found plenty of things in common to talk about; I take care not to say anything inflammatory and she takes care not to say anything judgmental. When I spend time with Mother, Judy gets a chance to go play golf, at which she excels, naturally.
When I can, I'll share more shots of Bartlesville, the town that Phillips 66 built.
Gas, by the way, is $1.99 today in Bartlesville.