While visiting Used to Be Mother yesterday, I create a ripple effect with the nursing staff.
"When was the last time anyone brushed her teeth?"
"She doesn't wear her teeth." responds one very pregnant LPN.
"But what about brushing her tongue and inside her mouth?" This was, after all, part of the facility's peri-hygiene commitment when she entered the facility.
A few furtive glances from one LPN to another spurs Saul into action. Within a few minutes, he brings a cup of mouth wash with a sponge on a stick shaped liked a lollypop.
UTBM: I don't want that thing.
She pushes his arm away and some of the mouthwash drips on her pants living its wet stain.
We cajole her and after a few minutes she opens her mouth to let Saul clean out her mouth.
I tell her to stick out her tongue which is covered in coodies. I can see raw skin on her lips and canker sores on her tongue.
She obeys with that wild eyed look now we see most of the time.
Her feet are swollen and very blue. When I rub them, I'm startled how cold they are.
"Why are you making her wear these slippers?" I ask Saul or anyone now who will listen.
Just then the case worker comes around the corner. She helps remove the slippers which have left a huge ridge on her feet because they are so tight.
"They don't like seeing her feet like this," K tells me.
Well don't look at them then.
I can smell my mother. It's not White Shoulders perfume or Lilies of the Valley. It's death. It's decay. I give her a little squeeze and rub her hair. She's so thin and shrunken in this wheel chair. I look into her eyes and see only madness.
This visit leaves me unsettled. I'm mad at the nursing staff who have to be goaded into helping her. I'm mad at myself that I can't keep her with me. I'm mad that she is still here. I'm mad that she is dying.
I grab the load of laundry, say my goodbyes and kiss her forehead.
"Goodbye dear." she says as she gives me a little wave.
As I walk away, I hear her say "That's my daughter."
I turn and blow her kiss with my free hand. "That's for you Mom." Several women look up when I say Mom.
They forget the second before but they seem to forget the role that filled their lives.