As a professional in the field of aging, Sara had seen it all—until her own mother broke her hip at the age of 88 and became profoundly confused, unable to live in her own home. Join Sara on her journey through the strangeness that is dementia while trying to make sense of it all and finding humor in the details. [Editor's note: Sara no longer contributes to Silver Planet, but we have made her archived blog entries available as a service to our readers.]
Assisted living regulations require that residents’ clothing be washed in very hot soapy water and dried in very hot dryers. As a result, clothing gets really beaten up and wears out fast.
After a year at Gaffney House, my mother needed some new clothes, so I thought we would go shopping.
We used to shop at Talbots and Nordstrom, sometimes JCPenny. We had a great time together. My mom was a power shopper. We would hit a department store like Marines on a mission. We were strategic and thorough. We moved through the clearance racks first, then on to the sale racks, then finally, to the new stuff, which took more time to evaluate.
As we entered the store, my mother, a former salesgirl herself, always zeroed in on one helpful-looking person and asked, “Can you help us?” Miss Helpful was then asked to follow us around the department as we evaluated the possibilities. (Mom was always very nice to the salesgirls.)
After making our selections, we would head for the dressing room—always the one at the end because they are always the roomiest, probably to accommodate wheel chairs, possibly to accommodate husbands.
My mother has always bought only quality clothing. She never pinched pennies. If she wanted something, she would pay the ticket, but the mission was value, getting great quality for a good price. After a long morning of shopping, we would head to a nice restaurant for lunch, bags in tow.
I did reminisce about our wonderful shopping days. For many daughters, shopping with Mom is one of those great life experiences that bonds us into the sisterhood and reminds us of our concentrically joined lives. It’s one of those experiences daughters miss most when Mom just can’t make the trip any longer.
After thinking through the logistics of a department store shopping trip, I decided that those days are gone. Instead, we would use the Lands’ End catalogue.
I visited Mom a couple of days ago to go through the catalogue. Well, more accurately, I looked through the catalogue and talked to myself about items as I turned the pages. Mom was mostly vacant or nodding off. When I came to the page with gloves, I said rather quietly, “Those gloves look very warm, they come in a small size, with nice color choices—and they’re only fifteen dollars.” Out of the blue, my mother said, with full strength in her voice: “Oh, that’s a good bargain. Let’s get those.”
Her response took me by surprise. “Good choice.” I said, “Let’s get the brown pair. They go with your coat.”
“Fine,” she said, with a spark in her eye that said: “We just got a good bargain!”
By Sara Myers
A Good Enough Daughter Blog