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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

friendship, memory, and love

Mom on phone decemberMy mother-in-law has a friend! This may not sound like a big deal to many of you, but those of us w/ family in elder care KNOW it’s bigger than it may sound.

Nursing homes — even good ones — aren’t conducive to happiness, sadly. My beloved mother-in-law was used to her own place, her own schedule, her own ways. A former middle school teacher, she’s also a bird watcher, a reader, and an inveterate ‘putterer.’ She’s also a walker.

ALL THE TIME. Even in her wheelchair. FOR HOURS.

And for a number of reasons, finding a real ‘friend’ at her nursing home has eluded her. She’s never been a real ‘joiner,’ I suspect — although I never knew this before she was in care. Since she kept in touch w/ many former students, met monthly w/ her former colleagues, and seemed to know what was happening w/ every relative to Timbuktu, I assumed that meant she was a social butterfly.

Not so. This may be where my sons get their (occasional) reserve.

So when my husband went to her quarterly care meeting today, this is the big news: Mom has a friend! Friend (whose name we don’t know) lives in A wing, and Mom in E (I think…). But they meet, Friend in her walker & Mom in her wheelchair. And they cruise the wings for hours. Really. Stopping in the foyer by the chapel to watch comings & goings, and looking out the window at the small pond where ducks & geese play. Talking as they go, each of them to the other.

via google

via google

As someone who treasures every one of my own friends, I am ecstatic that Mom — who has had to give up so many things as Alzheimer’s strips layers of memory & independence from her — has a friend. Someone with whom — the staff says — she chatters happily. As does Friend.

Who doesn’t need affirmation, a sympathetic ear, new stories to hear and a new audience for our own? What is it about friendship that is as precious as family, just different? I suspect the difference is that our friends choose us.  I’ve made (& lost…) friends. My family is kind of stuck w/ me — you can’t reeeeeally divorce your sister (although I’m pretty sure they may have wanted to, occasionally!). So when friends ‘stick’ (instead of being stuck…) I’m grateful.

So today that gratitude is for friends. My own dear ones, my BFF, my sisters and ersatz brothers. The aunts & uncles and old ladies who shaped me. And Mom’s new one, who seems to see beyond Mom’s Alzheimer’s to the wonderfully funny, smart, and giving woman she still is. Thank you, universe!!

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