February 20, 2019
The planned Valentine’s Day party at Mom’s community included the C Rock City Band from here in Columbia. They specialize in classic hits from the 60s and 70s.
And this party wasn’t for the whole Lenoir Woods compound of independent, assisted living, and skilled nursing residents. It was set up mostly for the skilled nursing residents from three neighborhoods, although there might have been others who stopped by.
What can I say? It was a blast.
I remember driving there around 1 p.m. wondering how Mom would be. Her afternoons can be difficult due to sundowning, and I’m told that behavior sometimes starts right after lunch. When I walked in, she smiled and was just fine. I kissed her and asked if she would be my Valentine; she giggled and said yes. Then she asked if I would be hers.
The weekday daytime staff at Mom’s neighborhood. A great crew!
Holding Hands and Smooching in Your 90s? Why Not?
Word about a party was out and some residents were looking forward to attending, especially Mom’s friend “L” who is 93.
A couple of months ago I was informed that Mom and “L” were developing a friendship. I was told because the friendship sometimes included holding hands and smooching, and the facility needed to inform me in case I had any concerns. I didn’t.
In fact, “L” is a lot of fun. I’m not sure why he lives in Mom’s neighborhood. Not everyone there has dementia so maybe he has other health issues. He is occasionally forgetful, like remembering what he selected for lunch or what college he attended.
“L” is witty, jokes around, worries about his neighbors, and freely shares commentary about the staff and the food. He also knows when all the activities are scheduled and prides himself on enjoying a hearty breakfast every day. He watches the news, enjoys the company of others, and apparently still likes the ladies.
For a while I thought that if Mom kissed “L,” her memory is so shot that she probably would not remember doing so ten minutes later. Wrong.
One morning a week or so ago, I asked Mom if she’d like to brush her teeth. She said yes and scrubbed those teeth quite well for a while. Then when we were sitting in the living room area before lunch, “L” rolled over in his wheel chair to visit. I explained that Mom had just finished brushing her teeth, and she then proceeded to say, “See! Now you can kiss me.” They both chuckled and went on to flirt unabashedly for another 10 minutes.
I just sat there with my eyes wide open thinking, “Damn. The girl’s still got it.”
Lunch Time Gatherings
When I visit Mom, I arrive before lunch. I sit and chat with her and her three lunch mates: “L,” “M,” and “P.” All three engage in interesting conversations and enjoy teasing each other. I sort of keep the conversation going and we often have a lot of laughs. None of the three has the kind of cognitive/behavioral issues Mom has with her dementia, but she does well listening to the conversations and sometimes chimes in with a witty comment here and there.
They don’t say a word as she tries to eat her dinner roll with a knife and fork, puts some mashed potatoes into her tossed salad, or attempts to pick up peas with her knife. Well, “L” sometimes does. “What are you doing that for?” he’ll say. Mom just gives him her annoyed look and tells him, “Never mind.”
The Valentine’s Day Party
Mom and I walked down the hall to another neighborhood where the band was setting up for the party. We chose to sit in soft chairs near the band rather than be boxed in at one of the long tables. Before the band started playing, staff passed around cookies and beverages.
The band was loud, and that’s good for the those who can’t hear well, but when they began playing, Mom was startled. She adjusted quickly and in no time she was tapping her feet.
There was a nice open area in front of the band, so when the second song started, I asked Mom if she wanted to dance. She did. I helped her up and we held hands as we moved our feet back and forth. She was all smiles. So was I. It was wonderful to connect with her in that way and it’s a memory I will always cherish.
At the same time, our friend Peggy rolled her husband, Tom (one of Mom’s neighbors), onto the dance floor as she usually does if there’s a band playing. She whirled and twirled him with such love and care. They have been dancing together since they were 16, and a wheel chair was not going to stop them. Tom enjoyed every minute, clapping to the beat as Peggy steered him back and forth, around to the left, then around to the right.
In no time, others joined us. Staff assisted residents, spouses guided spouses, and adult children led with parents.
The Power of Music
Watching folks enjoy the music at the party was a testament to the power music has on all of us. Lots of folks at the party were in wheel chairs or were very limited in their ability to walk without assistance,; yet hands clapped, shoulders moved up and down, people swayed, feet tapped, and smiles lit the room.
Then there was Mr. and Mrs. Wonderful. Well, that’s what I call them. The wife probably lives in an independent living apartment or maybe even in her own house. The husband is a resident. They knew Peggy and Tom and sat next to them. They watched as Peggy took Tom out onto the dance floor again and again. Mrs. Wonderful seemed to want to do the same for her husband; however, she gestured to Peggy that she had leg problems.
But when the love ballad “Unchained Melody” started up, Mrs. Wonderful positioned herself in front of her husband, reached behind him to grab his safety belt, and slowly pulled him up to a standing position even though she was half his size. They stood there holding on to each other and swayed.
Well, my heart just melted, and I wept. It was such an amazing moment to witness the love Mr. and Mrs. Wonderful had for each other.
Then “L” Rolled Up to Join Us
He was sitting in a different area for most of the party, but he saw us dancing and made his way over to us. It wasn’t long before the hand holding began and some sweet words were exchanged. Because of the music, I couldn’t hear what they were saying. Doesn’t matter. They were both smiling at each other.
With all the music and the dancing, Mom had quite a lot of excitement. We took our time walking back to her neighborhood down the hall. She doesn’t do well with the walker; keeps wanting to carry it instead of pushing it forward. It’s a potential fall hazard for her and we watch her closely when she is using it.
As we walked into her neighborhood someone was talking about the Valentine’s Day party. “Are we going to the party, too?” she asked.
“We were just there, Mom.”
“Yeah, we danced together, and you danced with one of the student nurses. We were movin’ and groovin’ big time!
“Oh, yes. I was dancing,” she said with a smile.
I’ve hungered for your touch
A long, lonely time
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?
I need your love
I need your love
God speed your love to me
To the sea, to the sea
To the open arms of the sea
Lonely rivers sigh
“Wait for me, wait for me”
I’ll be coming home, wait for me