Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Last Sunday afternoon, I went over to the assisted living facility where my mother lives to attend a program to honor all the residents who are in the Wellness Program. My mother is in the “Salubrious” wellness group. The word salubrious actually means “favorable to or promoting health or well-being,” but my mother has decided in her own mind that the word means “top exercise group in town.”

After the program, we did what all Minnesotans do after they are honored for their participation in a healthy life-style program: we went to the dining room for coffee and strawberry cake with whipped cream frosting.

My mother and I found a round table with a half a dozen empty chairs and sat down. Soon we were joined by a couple of other residents. The woman seated next to me (I would guess her to be well over 90), was as thin as a reed but kept up a stream of chatter as she steadily whittled away at her slice of cake. She had left her husband sleeping in their apartment while she came to the program, and she was a little concerned about navigating her way back to him when the cake part was over.

“I have no idea how to find him again,” she confided to me, scraping her fork along the plate to get all the whipped cream. “I really don’t know how to get back to my apartment.”

“No problem,” I said. “You can just come along with my mother and me when we leave, and we’ll drop you off at your door.”

“You’re an angel,” she smiled at me. Then she leaned over closer and said mischievously, “Be sure to live dangerously so you don’t get so old.” She nodded wisely and then re-attacked her cake.

I just laughed. “That’s a good one,” I said. “Be sure to live dangerously . . . I don’t think anyone’s ever told me to live dangerously before. I’ve got to write that down.”

She continued eating her cake, nodding. “You do that, and write my name beside it—and say I’m related to Sergeant Edward.” Sergeant Edward was her husband, asleep back in the apartment.

“Okay, I’ll write down, ‘Said by Lois who is related to Sergeant Edward,’” I promised.

“But I have no idea how to get back to that apartment and find Ed,” she stated, distractedly chewing her cake.

“I’ve got you covered,” I said. “We’re going to deliver you right to your door when you’re done eating.”

Twice more before we left, she worried about finding her way back to her apartment. “One-three-three,” she suddenly said. “I believe it’s one-three-three.”

We were a strange parade as we left the dining room: my mother hanging on to my arm for balance, Lois steering her walker, and me. We didn’t exactly exit as the crow flies; it was more of a wavering, meandering path vaguely in the direction of the door. The hall was crowded with residents and their families, still milling around after the program and the cake.

I almost lost Lois a time or two, but finally we found her apartment: one-three-three, just like she thought. She opened the door cautiously and peeked in. An old man lay in a recliner, as still as death. “Sergeant?” she quavered. “Are you awake?” He didn’t move. “Sergeant?” she called again. Sergeant jerked suddenly and muttered something that sounded like “Ummgggummm.” Lois turned back to us and smiled broadly. “He’s alive,” she announced grandly.

She shut the door behind her, and we proceeded down the hallway to my mother’s apartment. It occurred to me that Lois didn’t really need a guide to her apartment. She just doesn’t want to be by herself when she inevitably opens the door and the Sergeant won’t wake up when she calls his name.

I suppose she wishes that she and Sergeant Edward had lived a little more dangerously when they were young, so they didn’t need to be so old now. (Advice credited to Lois, who is related to Sergeant Edward. There, I kept my promise.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love this story!