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But This Is My Mother!
The Plight of Our Elders in American Nursing Homes
by Cynthia Loucks

From Chapter 5: Reweaving Old Threads

In the adjacent bed a woman was hooked up to an IV. She, too, had suffered a stroke and was in much worse shape than Mama. She couldn't talk at all, just moaned a little, but I went over and looked into her eyes and talked to her for a while anyway. The woman's daughter came in to visit. She was angry and frustrated with the nursing home and was in the midst of a disagreement about some aspect of her mother's care. I listened to her and tried to offer suggestions as to how she might deal with the situation. I maintained an incredible wall of denial that what she was saying could possibly have any implications for what lay ahead for me and Mama. Even so, a small voice, confined to a little room in my mind, was saying, "Uh oh."
I was glad when she left so I could direct all my attention toward Mama. I undoubtedly prattled a bit; I always do when I'm nervous. Yet, I also remember Mama and me just sitting there quietly—she was in a wheelchair, and I sat in a metal and vinyl chair next to her. Waiting. We spent a lot of the rest of her life waiting together. In a quiet moment, left to my own thoughts, my cheerleader demeanor soon evaporated. I sank into despondency at the thought that I would have to leave Mama in this unfamiliar environment, in the care of yet another set of strangers. I looked up at her, or maybe she looked at me. Anyway, our eyes met. She looked crestfallen as she said, "I wish I were the kind of person that when somebody looks at me their face would light up."
"Oh, Mama," I told her, "you are that kind of person. I was just thinking about something." I can absolutely promise you that I never looked at her again without "lighting up."
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