It's been a little over two months - though it feels indefinably longer - since my ninety-nine-year-old mother left her home in Seaford, Delaware for her new home at the Sunrise senior care facility in Gahanna, Ohio,
Mayhaps I sometimes overdid it.
My mother being a person who always liked to be out and about and still pretty energetic for pushing a hundred years, I figured that going out to eat would be an enjoyable, beneficial, and doable outing for her.
Granted, taking mom out was an undertaking: bundling her into her coat, hat, scarf, and gloves; helping her into her wheelchair then tucking her in with a lap blanket; maneuvering her into the car then folding the wheelchair and hefting it into the back of the car; getting mom from the car back into the chair then into the restaurant; getting her out of her wheel chair, hat, gloves, scarf and coat and seated in a chair; then either finding a spot in the restaurant to store the wheelchair or running it back out to the car; then, after we were finished eating, doing the whole process in reverse.
But after a few times and with the assistance of my faithful, helpful hubby Tom, we got it down to a drill, and Tom and I got into the routine of taking mom out for 8 am Mass on Sundays followed by brunch, and out for lunch a time or two or three during the week.
On the days we didn't go out I'd visit my mom at Sunrise and hang out for an hour or so, often bringing sweets or snacks or any article that she might need or have asked for.
Over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays some of my siblings, my children and my grand children poured into town to spend time with mom, and her days were full of visitors,
Turned out that she was, in fact, tired out. Wiped out, in fact, and, as pointed out to us by one of the Sunrise caregivers, in need of a day or two of peace and quiet (see post from 1/2/2020, "Epilogue").
But, after the previous weeks of frequent outings, visits, and holiday excitement, my mom was to have a sudden spell of more peace and quiet than she'd had since her arrival at Sunrise; by December twenty-ninth all the visiting relatives had returned home and I was headed off to Los Angeles to spend eleven days visiting my daughter, son-in-law and grand daughters.
My mom would have no outings during that time and only evening pop-in visits from my daughter Theresa.
But no. When I returned from my trip to Los Angeles I found my mom looking better and in better spirits than when I'd left. I wondered if having some time without me constantly hanging around and schlepping her out every other day had actually helped her relax, adjust and settle into her still relatively new surroundings on her own terms. The Sundowners - the state of anxiety that often grips elderly people - even seemed to have abated, as I noticed when I visited her in the early evening.
In fact, one evening when I visited her a little before dinner time she was sitting contently around the dining room table with some of the other residents. I sat and chatted with her and her friends for about ten minutes, at which point she told me that I should go ahead and go, as she wanted me to get home safely. I think she really just wanted to get back to her socializing, such as it was.
All of which made me wonder whether I should take my mom out any more at all?
Why have her woken up at 6:30 am on Sunday mornings to be taken out to Mass in a church if she believes she's going to Mass in a church whether she does or doesn't? Why drag her to a restaurant if she gets the same satisfaction from believing she's gone to a restaurant? After all, if taking my mom out is a haul for Tom and me, it's likewise just as tiring for her being the haulee.
And, I wondered, with the colder weather upon us and all the sickness that's been going around, is it even healthy to be taking her out, tiring her out, and risking her picking up one of the infinite bugs - or, God forbid super-bugs - always stalking crowded public places?
And, of course, there's always the risk that, careful as we all are with my mom, she could miss a beat getting out of the car or while in the church or restaurant and fall. After all, relatively good shape that she's in, she's not getting younger by the day.
On the other hand, almost every time I visited my mom since my return she'd suggest that we go out for dinner. Whether it was morning, afternoon or evening, she'd suggest we go out for dinner. Even if she'd told me just a few minutes earlier that she'd gone out for dinner that day. It made me think that she must actually want to go out for dinner for real.
Or did she? In any case, I always told her that we'd go out tomorrow.
And so I spent about a week ping-ponging back and forth whether or not I should take my mother out, or whether she'd be better off just staying at Sunrise.
Finally yesterday while visiting my mom I asked one of the nurses on duty if she thought it would be okay for me to take my mother out. She thought it would be.
A little later while I was at the reception desk signing out from my visit I poured out my dilemma to the friendly concierge at the desk and asked her if she thought that, under the circumstances, I should be taking my 99-year-old mother out.
The concierge replied that I absolutely should. She said that everybody needs to get out now and then, even my mother, and more than I might realize. "Take your mother out," she told me.
So we did. Tom, Theresa, and I took her out today for lunch at the Rusty Bucket.
After we returned her to Sunrise my mom thanked me for the movie.