Friday, December 05, 2008


I hardly know their names as the cyclic pattern of life and death plays out with seasonal predictability. Winter meets hospice and space is created for another nice lady who can't live at home anymore because the long fingers of Alzheimer's has closed her eyes and ears to all she has ever known.

Myrna moved in last night. I remember the faces of her three children and two grandchildren standing around my desk, guilty, lost, giving mother away to a stranger because in so many ways she has become a stranger. They bring her to my little community and hold their collective breath waiting for all hell to break loose as mom figures out she has been abandoned. One of them nervously laughs, they eldest, asking where is the nearest fire exit. One son says, "I can't watch this." I tell them they might be surprised. Nothing might happen at all.

So they wait, huddled around my desk as though around a campfire, while I walk down to her new apartment. I find Myrna standing with Susan, one of the staff. She says, "This is a nice hotel. I think I've been here before." Susan tells me she'll go ahead and stay a couple of days." She opens a cupboard. "My clothes are even in the closet."

"See? They thought of everything!" Susan says by way of comfort.

"How nice." Myrna says.

I returned to my desk. Her children were stunned. They asked, "So she agreed to stay for two days?"

I told them yes, and that we will do those two days over and over again for the next two years.

They ask when they can visit, thinking we might have a black-out policy like a treatment center. I tell them its her house. Come anytime. If the visits seem to set her back, we'll let you know.

This morning Myrna did set off the fire alarm thinking the hotel was on fire, but these are the details we'll work out. Together with the Portland Fire Department.

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