A few (nursing home) notes

1. While I put something in the communal freezer, Astrid zeroed in on my mother, asleep in the barca lounger on the far side of the main activity room. They often wheel the chairbound over to that side too. My mother was never over there last summer.

2. Some of the usual suspects are still regulars at the activity table, reading and playing games. The activity leader must know more trivia about the mid-20th century than those who lived through it. Miss Jean wasn't sure that she wanted to leave her post observing Astrid to go play, but I assured her that we would be watching.

3. Astrid shared her berries with my mother. She would extend her arm up holding a single blueberry and say "Grammie". My mother could not coordinate the handoff, so I plucked the berry from my daughter's hand and pressed it to my mother's lips, whereupon she understood to eat it.

4. Nursing homes are filled with affirmation for the young and healthy. Mr. G. likes to chat to himself without pause. He was seated next to my mother, tapping out a beat on the table before him. When Astrid arrived on the scene he struck up with

There's is pretty girl
look at her go
such a pretty girl
there she is

look at her go
she has a ball
look at her

there's a pretty girl
she's a good girl
yes, a good girl

For a moment I thought about all of the advice we receive not to praise little girls for their looks or their goodness and then I pushed it away. Who's to argue with Mr. G?

5.The other day I spoke with my mother's neighbor and his wife. He has advanced considerably since last summer in his physical limitations. He and my mother now eat with a third woman at a separate table, at which they receive assistance with their utensils. His mind, however, remains very sharp and he followed the long conversation that I had with his wife. At is turns out, they have a son in Oakland. Not only that, but this man suffered a brain injury in his late twenties and was treated at SF General hospital, in the trauma ICU. Here we are on the other side of the country, our loved ones neighbors in a facility for people with extreme neurological conditions, while decades apart my husband and her son occupied beds in a trauma ICU for severe brain injuries. Such threads connect us over space and time, tightened in this moment of conversation in an enclosed garden where my mother waits in the gazebo.