Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mom and Mary, and Timotheus Too

Mom and Mary Margaret.
Before Alzheimer’s deprived Mom of her creative skills, she used to make all kinds of crafts, including ragdolls. With yarn for hair, knitted sweaters, and hand-sewn clothes, each doll was meticulously fashioned by Mom, and if something didn’t look good enough, she would pull it apart and begin again—like any artist takes time to make their work just so.

Nearly all the dolls have found happy homes with my sisters and nieces, except one. Mom probably had kept it because she’d never finished the face—arthritis had stolen her nimble dexterity, then Alzheimer’s gunned for everything else. This doll’s body and features may not be as prim as the others but no less distinctive. That didn’t mean the unfinished ragdoll was unwanted. When Mom went to live with my sister Sheila Marie, the doll went too. Soon after the move, the doll was given a proper name, Mary Margaret, eventually shortened to just Mary.

A year and half later, Mom went into the nursing home, and she mentioned to my sister that Mary should have a face because she was afraid Mary couldn’t see someone coming in the room to snatch her away. “How would she see who had taken her?” Sheila Marie freely admits she is no Norman Rockwell but she nicely drew this pleasant face on Mary, a face that Mom doesn’t leave out of her sight for any length of time.

Mary has been a great sense of comfort, and these days, she is no longer a stuffed ragdoll but a real little girl … a living breathing companion that Mom looks after and cares for each day.

On Tuesday, we brought Mom back to my sister’s home where we watched Casablanca, but, before Bogart’s flashback to Bergman in Paris, Mom began to worry that Mary and her new friend Timotheus (because, as Mom had said, the little girl needs a friend) were alone.
Timotheus and Mary.
I feigned calling the nurses and then assured her that Mary and Timotheus were just fine. Mom still felt that she had to get back to her babies, as she called them, so Sheila Marie, my charmers, and I drove Mom back where she was instantly put at ease by the sight of her good friends.

Often patients in this stage of dementia are consoled by dolls and little children (my daughter Ava is like a celebrity walking through the facility). Everywhere you look, there are plastic and plush countenances peeking out from behind a pillow, staring down from a top shelf, and smiling across the community areas to greet you when you come in. At first I didn’t think anything of it.

After we said goodbye to Mom and she walked us to the secured door, it upset Mom that we were all leaving at once. So Sheila Marie stayed behind for a few minutes while my family and I departed, even though it was troubling to go with Mom in that mindset.

Outside, we waved to Mom standing at the window with Sheila Marie by her side. Mom yelled through the closed window, “Arrivederci.” I yelled it back (and Ava too!).

I looked past Mom to Mary sitting upright against the wall. My own memories surfaced of a stuffed animal named Monkey I’d had as a little boy. Monkey calmed me when the thunder cracked and when I couldn’t sleep because monsters were lurking in the shadows. I remembered what it was like to have a child’s outlook and the bond of a close friend. And in that reflective moment, I found myself comforted because we weren’t leaving Mom alone after all. Not really … Mary and Timotheus were there.
A few of mom's creations.


Chudney DeFreitas-Thomas said...

I'm glad your mom has her friends to comfort her.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

David, thanks for sharing this beautiful story.

David Cranmer said...

Chudney, there are so few comforts left but this is one.

I have the need to write them, Prashant. Thank you for listening.

Charles Gramlich said...

The good memories brought a smile to my face. The other parts are very hard, I know.

David Cranmer said...

Always appreciate you stopping by, Charles.

Leah J. Utas said...

Beautiful. Friends are friends.

David Cranmer said...

That they are, Leah.

Oscar said...

I can see why she had to get back to check on her babies. Thanks for sharing, David.

David Cranmer said...

Thanks for stopping in, Oscar. Appreciated.

Ron Scheer said...

A lovely story. It is reassuring to know that such simple comforts can be a strength for those so vulnerable. I'm remembering my children's attachments to dolls and blankets. My son once left a blanket in a fish and chips shop during a holiday in Scotland, which required a desperate trip back to reclaim it.