Mom's Wedding Date

I chose the pretty pharmacy on Columbus to select my wares. My mother was going to a wedding and she needed some cosmetics. I was by myself and I wanted to take the extra ten minutes to choose the right blush and eyeliner and just the right shade of lipstick.

I had already taken her shopping for heels and that process had been mercifully and unusually smooth. When your mother has dementia, she can get angry very easily: every suggestion you make she often decides is a verdict on her own ability to care for herself.  I had much to juggle in Easy Spirit: my two-year-old was running at breakneck speed around the shop and the door to the avenue was wide open to welcome the early Spring sunshine. Meanwhile, my mother was putting a high heel over an athletic sock on the wrong foot and telling the staff that they had given her the wrong shoe. Running up and down the aisles to scoop up my child, I tried to sneak a side conversation with the salesman in: "My mother has dementia, let me do the explaining, try not to talk to me but speak directly to her, while listening to me."

Every lobe of my brain was lit up as I do-se-doed with dementia and toddlerdom. Both my mother and my daughter are always on high alert for being spoken about rather than spoken to, so I've developed the skills of an undercover federal agent to navigate the waters of caring for both. Still,I usually fail and there is a quarrel worthy of Eugene O'Neill between my mother and me. We agree never to see each other again because I am "making her dementia worse by not letting her make her own choices" and she is, well, driving me nuts. I know in five minutes she won't remember the incident and I won't feel the anger and frustration. I'll just see my mother, or the woman who holds pieces of her soul and memory but doesn't have the same bright eyes my mother had. Anyway, we'll be "friends" again and we'll take the baby to lunch and I'll schlep them both through the day, neither one of them capable of caring for themselves, both utterly determined to do so.

So I decided to go to the cosmetics aisle alone. I was preparing a bag to give to her date for the wedding, her dear and closest friend, a man who remembers my mother from "before" and I think, like me, holds onto that memory with white knuckles while trying to enjoy his time with her now. She can still be fun, after all. You just have to catch her on the right day, in the right hour, and bring her to the right spot.

I love the fancy pharmacies that sell soap on a rope from Rhode Island in tin canisters with sailboats on them. The same company sells talcum powder aftershave! Does anyone still use talcum powder? Amidst the anachronistic goodies lies Maybelline and Revlon. it was nearly nap time and I needed to get home and relieve my husband, who had been watching our daughter while I went to the doctor. But I couldn't resist lingering a bit. It had to be just right.

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"Why should graves make people feel in vain? Somehow I can't find anything hopeless in having lived." -Zelda Fitzgerald

Hungry Little Animal


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