Yesterday, I took Maya with me over to Clearfield to the nursing home there where my Aunt and her daughter are, and have been patients, since August 31st of 2006. It is only the second time since they were admitted that I was able to get over to see them.
For the first month, after they were admitted, I was dealing with a nasty case of shingles - still am coping with them yet today, as a matter of fact. Still having the pain element along my right side and across my upper abdomen which seems now to have become a permanent part of my body's composition. In October and November - until just a week ago now - I was unable to get over to see them due to a myriad of problems - if I didn't have to watch the two little ones, I had no vehicle for quite a while as my son was using my car and then, there was the surgery, recuperation from that and was finally just released from the "no driving" restriction a week ago.
That still doesn't mean I have the freedom anytime I want now to come and go - I can't manage to go out and take both Maya and Kurtis with me unless there is someone else along to give me a hand there. But, I can again at least now go and take Maya as I can generally manage her ok. You try carrying one of those baby carriers (which are heavy enough on their own) and a twenty pound baby in it and see how easy that is to manage!
But I'm digressing there. This is about Maya's and my visit to see my aunt - her great-great-aunt and Jane Ann, my aunt's only child, who will be 50 years old come February.
My Aunt's given name is Anna Mae but virtually everyone in the family has always called her "Mike." I don't know how she got that nickname - not even sure if she knows how it came about either - but Aunt Mike she has always been to me. Now, my kids and I - along with some of our cousins - will at times refer to her as "Anna Mae" but that generally happens when she is being her most obstinate, bull-headed self, and yes, she can indeed do a good number when she is being "Anna Mae!"
Mandy had stopped by to see AM and JA (as my cousins and I abbreviate things when writing about them) this past Saturday and while there, she gave AM photos of the two little ones of hers - the same pictures I have posted on the top of my blog. She was upset, really hurt, when she came home because AM didn't recognize her when she came in and she had to explain to her who she is plus, AM didn't know or didn't remember Mandy's baby, the little guy - Kurtis- either. Mandy had said AM looked different. She said her eyes were bright and sparkly - she has the prettiest icy blue eyes I think I have ever seen - and she seemed calm but yet, she said there was a look in her eyes that made Mandy feel AM was angry, a deepset anger inside her that didn't surface as it does sometimes when you talk to her.
No, she is not happy at all over the circumstances that have her and JA in this nursing home - she wants to be back in her home, the family homestead. And, I can relate quite well to her feelings there too. I know how I would feel if I had been forced to leave my home of so many years and a place I love dearly. And yes, I would be angry, very, very angry too - wouldn't you?
But today, when I came in with Maya in tow, carrying two small gifts for her and JA and a paper plate wrapped up with cookies, she squinted at me initially and then asked, "Is that you Jennifer?" Yes, I had replied - it's me and I have Maya, Mandy's little girl with me. Maya had by that time begun to whimper a bit, as she sometimes gets frightened by the nursing home and the aura it has of hospital air. She tends to fear that this means she is going to have to see a doctor, get examined, perhaps have a shot and it takes a good bit of soothing to make her see this is not a visit for her in that respect.
I was happy to see AM looked very nice today. Her hair was done - she had recently been given a perm just last week and the style was very becoming to her. Her eyes were bright and she seemed to be more comprehending of things today than she has been often over the past year or more. Jane was sitting in her large, high-backed wheelchair, sleeping quite soundly - actually, she was snoring and didn't hear us at all as she didn't stir till we were almost ready to leave.
Aunt Mike was dressed in a very attractive outfit - grey sweatpants with a very pretty sweater of pink, grey and white stripes and she looked very pretty. Had she had her teeth in, she wouldn't have looked the 89 and 1/2 years she has under her belt now!
Aunt Mike had a colostomy 15 years ago this past October and has done quite well in dealing with that over the years. Granted, she has, especially the last few years, grumped immensely about this thing, having the colostomy bag, etc., to which all of us - her nieces and nephews - have reminded her that it is the fact she was able to have that colostomy that allowed the doctors to remove the malignancy in her colon and rectal area and this is what has enabled her to stay alive to oversee the care of JA all these years.
While Maya and I were there, I was trying to explain to AM how much Maya has advanced just in the past few months - from being totally uncommunicative a year ago and now, she is picking up words, words, and more words almost too quickly. I told her that she now sings three little songs - Happy Birthday, Twinkle, twinkle and Jingle Bells and that I am in the process this week of trying to teach her to sing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" but of course, as toddlers are ovent want to do when you ask them to say or do something - to perform their "tricks" - she wasn't going to pay a lick of attention to Gram's requests there!
Instead, she ended up getting very whiny, wouldn't settle unless she could sit in my lap and even then, her occasional crying made talking to AM very difficult as her hearing is not the best now either - nor is mine, for that matter and especially not when you have a three-year-old making all these sobbing sounds! But we did get to speak a bit as I told her I had heard today from the widow of my cousin Dick, who had called me to ask about AM and JA - where they are, how they are, etc. I know this niece-in-law was for many years a favorite member of the family as far as AM was concerned and she seemed to understand what I told her and appeared happy that Betty had taken the time to inquire about her and JA.
Because Maya had become more rambunctious and was wanting AM to open her gifts so we could then leave soon, she began to wave to AM and telling her "Bye bye Mike, Bye bye Mike!"
When we did get ready to leave, as I leaned down to hug her and give her a kiss, she mentioned to me how much she wished she were in her home. I told her I too wished she could be in her home too but at the same time, I was also very glad that she and JA are where they are now too. The reason being that it was so difficult for her to try to care for herself and JA at home and now, she can sit back and relax and oversee that the staff does tend to Jane's needs very well, as well as eliminating all the other chores AM had to worry about in that big old house. Her meals are provided - no need to worr about cooking and the nutritional levels are being met now. No need for her to worry about JA slipping and falling as there is adequate staff to get her up and down - in and out of bed without a fear she will knock AM over and one or both of them being injured in the process. So many things like that makes seeing them in that home such a relief to know that they are being cared for and quite well too, overall.
I would like to see AM try to allow the staff to take her to community areas in the home where she might be able to relax and develop some new friendships with others there who still have a good bit of their mental faculties intact, but that is something she refuses to do - she will not leave JA's side. And, in retrospect, considering she has dedicated the last almost 50 years of her life to the care and love of her daughter, I guess that is too much to ask her to try to change that part of her being now.
As we got ready to leave, JA woke up and seeing Maya and I there, she broke into a big smile. Always one to love having little babies and children around her, I think seeing Maya sparked a little memory cell in JA as she seemed to recognize her and acknowledge both of us. Maya has a thing now about "rubbing noses" - you can't always get her to give a kiss, but she will almost always rub noses if you tell her "Noses" and when I suggested to her that she rub noses with JA, she immediately went over to her - no fear at all there - and yes, she did rub noses with Ja which got JA to break into an even bigger smile. Don't ever tell me the mentally challenged, even those as drastically so as is JA, don't understand the little things, small gifts from little chldren of affection. It was more than obvious that JA knew what Maya was doing and appreciated her efforts.
After my giving AM a hug and kiss, I asked Maya if she would or could give AM a big hug and a kiss. For a few seconds she did hang back a bit and then, went over to her wheelchair, arms spread open wide and did give AM a very nice, very affectionate hug and even a kiss!
Knowing how important actions like that have always been with members of my Dad's family - they've always been easy to give displays of affection and it was a given around any of my aunts/uncles there that hugs and kisses were mandatory gifts to be bestowed frequently. And, seeing the smile on AM's face after this little one had done that, was worth more than anyone could ever give me. As Maya backed away from AM, she even started to sing "We wish you a Merry Christmas" - which surprisingly enough AM could hear and pick out the words Maya was repeating to her. She also even started to sing a couple words to Jingle Bells which perked AM up even more as she began to sing the refrain with Maya.
My older daughter, Carrie, is trying to figure out how to squeeze in the time to make the drive up to Clearfield with her son, Alex, so AM can see him, how big he is now and hopefully even be able to hear him play Jingle Bells on his trumpet! I too am looking forward to hearing his rendition of that tune on Sunday when they will be coming here for dinner!
One thing though - there's never any question when AM sees Alex as to who he is - regardless of how much he has grown nor is there ever any doubt as to how he will respond to both her and JA as Alex has grown up around both of them and has no fear of JA - offers to play with her if she is awake and feeling ok and always is extremely attentive and tries to talk as much as possible to AM, telling her what his interests are, how he is doing in school, what he is learning - fills in as many gaps there as he can. And she becomes, for a short time then, the Aunt I know and remember so well from my childhood and younger years as an adult. The Aunt who was always so full of love and caring for all her nieces and nephews!
And that's the Aunt I was so happy to see a good part of that in her today.