Swee Pea, 1981
My 91 year-old mother, who has at least for the moment tilted back from death’s doorstep, is getting to be one for surprises.
When I walked into her room at the nursing home the other day she looked up and announced that she’d been thinking about having a baby, but had decided against it.
Now, I don’t know how you handle an older person with dementia. I’ve learned, though, it’s best not to dispute such comments as this, no matter how outrageous they might be. Rather, I just play along in the hope of enticing a little more conversation. So instead of pointing out several obvious obstacles to this conception, I merely answered, “That’s interesting. Why did you decide that?”
A response like this will usually leave my mother a little confused. Just enough time will have elapsed between the time she says something and the time I respond—really, this happens in less than a minute—that she’ll have completely forgotten what we were talking about and instead chuckle at the realization of yet another lost thought. This happens a lot.
But this time my mother instead looked at me as if I had three ears. “Well can’t you see?” she snapped back at me. “I’m in my nineties!”
I should mention that since she entered her eighties my mother has relished the idea that she is the oldest person around and should therefore be accorded the attention and respect given to, say, visiting royalty. It only upsets her when I point out that there are several people right down the hall from her who are more than one hundred years old and who are up and walking and feeding themselves and anxious to get out and go places.
Anyway, we had a chuckle at the silliness of my comment and continued on to another conversation. I stuck around for a little while, checking laundry and tending to a potted plant in the window. I thought the whole baby thing was over. But just as I was preparing to leave, she looked up from her bed with an air of contempt and said, “So I guess that means I wouldn’t be able to count on you to babysit?”