There she sits at the head of the octagonal breakfast table, looking like a Fairy Queen. Someone said she is more beautiful now than she was 20 years ago and it is true. I don’t know if it is because EVERYONE tells her how lovely she is. Or is it a trick of nature? Whatever the reason she is a real beauty. But she is fading mentally so fast that every day there is more evidence of it. She is having real trouble speaking. Her voice is so low I can barely hear her. And to make things worse, she has started putting her hand in front of her mouth when she speaks which completely muffles the sounds she is making. Often they make no sense anyway.

Big smile

She basically has Aphasia, and she is 101. In any case, she sits there with her table full of Judith Lieber bags sitting in a circle around a potted Orchid in the center of the table.
The shapes of the purses vary. There is one shaped like a teapot, one is a cupcake, one a soft serve ice cream, one is a sparkling red Cardinal (bird), and one is a bluebird. The bluebird has a baby bird inside her, and the price-tag is still on it. It says $600. For a tiny crystal covered bird the size of a small pillbox, it is shocking.

Outside the window ( an old fashioned Picture window) is a pastoral scene. Green grass, flower beds on the order of an English border against the brick wall that separates the 2 parts of the yard. There is a wrought iron gate painted a muted turquoise like all the woodwork and trim here. It is always open leading into the rose garden and beyond. I ask Mother is she sees how pretty the garden looks, and she gives me a blank stare. She does not know. Because for some reason, it seems very hard for her to focus on the picture. She looks out the window but does not see what we see. It is sad that she really cannot enjoy the grounds to the fullest. But we have a new wheelchair, and she can be wheeled out there more easily than before. She does get taken out to the rose garden and even down to the pool. And she sees them. But not with the full realization of where she is in the midst of her garden.




She likes color, and she must notice the electric blue of the sky, in which puffy clouds collide and the intense green of the grass. The colorful roses and the turquoise and white pool furniture contrast with each other. But she is really focused inward now. And not in an introspective way. But instead in a way that is sort of dreamy. I ask her if she’s just had a dream and often she will say, “Yes, I have.”


 She saw her Mother in a dream the other day. And her Mother was really talking to her even though Mother said: “It was not exactly my mother, more like a ‘suggestion’ of my Mother.” I asked her if her Mother was young. And she told me that she was. That was sort of creepy, But I guess if you die at 24, you never age. That must have been so weird for Mother. And she wanted to go back there, into the dream. She told me she did. So I tried not to disturb or distract her.

mother in bright sunglasses
Mother in glasses

Letting her stay in these dreams is one of the few things we can do for her, by not waking her or insisting that she see something else by asking her to open her eyes.

 Sometimes I believe these visits are harbingers of death, but at others, just I think they are something that happens when people begin to really enter the final stage of aging. And that is what Mother has done. She is definitely old now, there is no “getting around it.” And that does not interest her. She has recently lost one of her few remaining friends to cancer, almost all the men she knew are gone. Only one or two are left of the adults near her age. And practically no men survive. There are 2 who are about 14 years younger than Mother. And they are definitely slowing down. I am sorry for Mother.

The other day I asked her what she would like to be happy. She pondered this and then looked blank.” I know what you would like”, I said” To go dancing and to have a boyfriend. “Yes! That’s right!” She said. I know this is true. She just is never happy without a man. She never ever learned how to be satisfied by being by herself. Because of her large extended family and because in the winter she lived in an apartment building, she always had company at her fingertips. At a moment’s notice, she could find someone who would match her mood. This is an excellent piece of luck for someone like my Mother, who has not an ounce of ambition in her. She was content to live in the way her father did, and later she was compliant with everything my brother or her husband suggested. She did not like to make decisions or plans. That was left to my father. After him, it was left to her boyfriend or later her second husband Ed Wheeler, whom she adored. But her husbands have died, and her boyfriends are almost all gone now. The fun has gone out of the boy-girl thing for Mother.Because of that, I worry a bit about her will to live. But I really believe we must try to do what people want for themselves. Not what we want for them.

Copyright©. 2019 Bonnie B. Matheson

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