Wednesday, June 9, 2010

North End, Boston - Circa 1960

Mom was in the North End of Boston circa 1960 yesterday. I got a call from the rest home at 3:30p, my blood flowing faster when I saw the number come up on caller-ID. The Director of Nurses, we’ll call her Karen, asked if I had a minute to speak with my mother.

“Lisa, who’s picking Jimmy up from school?” Ma asked anxiously. My brother, Jim, is fifty-two now, but in her mind, he was eight years old.

I thought fast. “Josie is picking him up.”

“Josie? Are you SURE?”

Josie was like a grandmother to us growing up and at our house everyday. But Mom didn’t sound convinced. I asked Karen if I should visit right away but she said later was fine, Ma just needed redirecting.

When I got to the rest home two hours later, Ma was still in a state. The staff was completely focused on her. At least six people, all concerned but calm, followed me into the den where Ma was.

“Lisa! There you are!” Ma exclaimed. "Who’s picking Jimmy up from school?”

“Josie has him, Mummy. He’s ok.”

“But does Josie have a key to the house?”

“Jim is gonna stay with her at her house. He is sleeping over there.” (There I went, getting too complicated).

“Oh,” a thoughtful pause. “Will she let him watch TV?”

I continued to assure her her son was fine and once she became semi-convinced, I tried to distract her with an outing...supper and a visit to a pet-sitting client. She had her favorite hamburger and fries and then we called my brother.

“Hi Jim!” I said to him, sunshine in my voice. “Ma wants to be sure you got picked up from school and I told her you were safe with Josie and sleeping over there.” He caught on immediately.

I could hear him telling our mother that Josie had cooked macaroni and meatballs for him and that she was in fact allowing him to watch TV. My mother had a contented smile on her face when the conversation ended and my stomach flew to my throat. I wanted to vomit on the spot from heartbreak.

“See Ma? He is fine.”

“So that phone has the 2378 number on it?” North End, Boston - my childhood home on Jackson Avenue.

“Yup. And we can talk to Jim anytime right from it.”

Ma was finally completely relaxed by the time we returned to the rest home a couple of hours later. She got her meds, we picked out a nightgown, and I tucked her in with a kiss to her fuzzy head.

“Night Ma. I love you.”

“Alright, Lisa. Go slow. I love you too.”


  1. Lisa ... that was a terrific blog ....You handled the situation perfectly!! Keep them coming ... you inspire us all

  2. A sad yet thoughtful post as you maneuver this journey together with your mother. Kudos to you for calming her worries.

  3. Lisa, I know exactly what you were going through with your mother, and you handled it so well. My father, too, went through a stage when he was reliving earlier times. In my father's case, he was a Holocaust survivor, and he was reliving things he saw while he was in concentration camp - it was truly horrifying. All you can do is try to calm and redirect, which is exactly what you did do. I hope that's some consolation.

  4. 任何你憂慮的事,你都應該去採取一點行動,不要只是在那邊想..................................................

  5. Oh Gilda, imagine having Alzheimer's and having to relive truly horrid memories? Ach, my heart aches for what your father's mind did to him. And I'm sorry you had to go through it through him.

    Joanne and Jayla, it took me a while to figure out how to handle these types of situations. I made so many mistakes in the beginning, arguing with my mother that we were all grown, my brother with his own children, and that we were safe. Finally, I learned through support groups and literature to "play along." I can get, as you see, carried away with it sometimes though :-)

  6. Lisa, that was quick thinking on your part, and I'm sure it saved your mom a lot of anxiety.

    What Gilda's dad went through, I can't even imagine.

  7. Touching post. Always happy to read about people helping elderly. I've worked with Alzheimer's patients and it can be challenging but is certainly rewarding. Have a great weekend.

    Stephen Tremp

  8. Lisa, you are such a good daughter. You are giving your Ma exactly what she needs, even when you are not sure because it comes from your heart. I have been visiting a co-workers mother in a nursing home on Thursdays. He can only get there 2 days a week, so I offered to help out. She has cancer and the beginning signs of dementia. She is not sure about when her son will see her next and always ask me about him when I tell her I am a friend of his and just thought I would stop by for a visit. Yesterday when I was there, I went to get something for her. I passed a woman in a wheelchair in the hall who told me she was 87 years old and struggling to get to her room. I told her I would take her, thinking it would only take a moment. Once in her room, she wanted help with getting into he chair, finding her remote and other delicate matters. I tried to explain to her that I was not on staff and could not move her. She was relentless. I thought of what you and quickly looked for a diversion. Mercifully, I spotted her remote and flipped on the TV. I handed it to her and asked her to find her favorite show. I quickly called over my shoulder that I would find a nurse. I was a bit concerned leaving my new friend longer than expected. Upon entering her room, she greeted me anew, as if I had just arrived. . I helped her eat, recovered her spilled juice that filled her breakfast plate.. re-pouring it into her glass much to her delight. We discussed travel and places she loved. When I had to leave, she thanked me for caring. I kissed her bald head and left. You mentioned dearest that you did not know what to do… just keep doing the next right thing. That will be enough. Love you, Carol