Mom harvesting basil

Mom stoops to pick up a leaf from the walkway at the memory care facility. She says with purpose, “I need to get out here and get these picked up.”  Mom has always loved to sweep, and rake and weed. I make a mental note to bring her a broom when I come back for a visit.

Our yard used to be her hobby when she lived with us. When she was finished at our house she would wander down to the flower bed at the corner and start weeding there. All of the neighbors loved my Mom, not only for her gardening, but because she always had a kind word and a wave for everyone that passed by. Secretly I think she gardened just so she could be outside to visit when someone walked past.

Arlene walks by now, holding her very life-like baby doll. She is so busy talking to the baby that she doesn’t acknowledge our hellos. Later when Mom and  I take our own walk, we pass Arlene again, this time sitting on a bench, kissing her baby’s forehead and telling her she’s a good girl. I smile and comment that she has a sweet baby and she says in all seriousness, ” She’s smart for her age…” Arlene knows about babies. She spent years as a neonatal nurse.

Mom and I find some cozy lawn chairs to sit in and are joined by John. He has forgotten his shoes today but not his manners. He sings us a hymn before he sits down. A few minutes later, Elaine joins us, quite frantic to find her husband. She tells John “I know he is here but I can’t find him.” She rushes off to continue her search only to reappear five minutes later, this time completely relieved when she sees John again. She exclaims, “Oh, there you are! I couldn’t find you.” Both John and Elaine have spent years married to other people who don’t live with them in memory care. They are comforted by each other in the way that only someone who has lived with a long time partner would understand.

Bob propels himself around in his wheel chair whenever he is not wearing his below-the-knee prosthesis. He has a fidget spinner in one hand and pushes the wheels of the chair with his other. He is on the move with a look of determination. I don’t know his story but I know he likes to move. He likes to be busy. He is not allowed to go out in the yard unsupervised because he single-handedly uprooted all of the veggies and herbs in the garden before their time. Maybe like Mom, he liked to garden but no longer has the patience to wait until the tomatoes ripen.

Valerie is from England. She spent her life in the fashion and cosmetics world. She is thin and glamorous in a place where make-up and clothes are an after-thought. The caregivers have admitted they are in awe of her silky lingerie. She rarely speaks but when she wanders into the yard she commands everyone’s attention. She walks right out into the grass and starts to do some side stretches. She takes her time, enjoying both the exercise and the attention, I think. She then lies down in the grass and gracefully lifts her legs in the air, supporting her back with her hands in a beautiful yogic shoulder stand posture. For a moment I glimpse my future… what remains is what we loved.

I am comforted by the thought that even if I eventually forget your name,  I’ll still remember how to do downward dog.