Friday, December 31, 2004


Dear Assisted Living Facility Employees,

Please be kind to my mother. Please know what it's taken me 46 years to learn -- that her silence doesn't mean she fails to appreciate you. Also, please know how much she relies on your being there every day to do your job. Even though she might not have said "Thank you." Ever. My sisters and I count on you to look after our mother when we can't. With that in mind, I've taken the liberty of preparing your New Years Resolutions for 2005:

1. I will treat every resident as if s/he were my own parent.
2. I will smile and greet residents warmly. I will initiate conversations.
3. I will remember that I will be old and dependent and I will treat my charges the way I hope to be treated at the end of my life.
4. I will learn about the residents' lives before they became old and dependent, in an effort to appreciate them as individuals.
5. I will understand that residents' lives have narrowed to the point that food has taken on new importance. Since food is one of their few remaining sensual pleasures, I will prepare and serve their food with passion and skill.
6. I will be creative in finding ways to provide social interaction for the residents by enlisting the help of school children, clergy and volunteers.
7. I will learn that seniors -- especially elderly women -- may not be skilled in asking for what they want. I will learn to offer help in a way that allows residents to receive help while maintaining their dignity.
8. I will organize with other workers to improve the working conditions at the facility. This will result in a more professional, committed staff and a healthier environment for us all.

Thank you for the care you give my mother and all seniors in your care. May you have health and joy in the new year. May all your kindness come back to you tenfold.

--Betty's daughter

Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas Eve

To those of you who have been watching this space, hoping for something new, I apologize. The reasons for the delay are numerous and pitiful. Mostly, I’ve avoided talking about my mom or my family because it seems we’re a little hard to describe right now. Something about selling the family home and moving Mother permanently to Arizona has caused all of us to act a little crazy. Some more than others. One day maybe I’ll tell you about the others. It’s hard talking about my sisters here; I’m never sure how much to tell and how much to withhold. But again, this problem has been with me all my life. Telling, holding in... It’s a tug of war that’s been going on for over 40 years. No reason to expect it will get resolved soon.

Tomorrow morning before dawn we head out to drive to Mother’s. I’m not sure if she’s glad we’re coming. My sister says Mom’s looking forward to our visit, but I wonder. Is my sister just filling in what she knows I hope my mother would say? Mom’s social skills have never been very good. People who've met her in the past few years attribute her abruptness (okay, rudeness) and lack of affect to her deteriorating health. Those of us who have known her longer know that she is as much a social butterfly now as ever.

My cousin tells a story about her earliest memory of my mother. We were all over at my grandmother’s house for a holiday, probably Christmas. This being my dad’s mother, with whom my mom had a history of bitter conflict, Mom was not happy being there. My cousin remembers that my mother never took off her coat and sat next to the door clutching her pocketbook all evening, while the rest of us visited. See, assisted living social worker? This social awkwardness of Mother’s has a long, long history. Stop worrying.

We’ll be visiting other family in the area while we’re in Arizona. Mom will feel slighted because we’re not spending more of our time with her. She won’t tell me this, but she will hint at it to my sister after we’ve left. It’s a holiday tradition. While we’re with her, she will mostly be silent, waiting for us to fill the gaps with entertaining chatter and occasionally looking at her silent, giant T.V., thinking of the programs she’s missing.

We’re looking forward to the visit.

I can’t find a single picture of my Mom at Christmas and I have just about every picture ever taken of her. Here’s one of my older sisters when they were young, to get you in the spirit.


To enhance the experience, here’s the music that was probably playing in the background when the picture was taken.

Merry Christmas, every one!