We spent New Year’s Day at home. After a gray, damp morning walk, we prepared for my mother’s arrival. It was a planned hand-off to free my sister, Bonnie, to spend the day with friends in Punaluu.
I admit we were worried. My mother turns 99 in May. She gets around her house in Kahala with a walker, which is an improvement over a few months ago. The house is small, but she tires easily as she moves from her favorite chair to the dining table, then back to her bedroom. Getting from Kahala to Straub Hospital is now a long trip for her, and I thought perhaps she had made her last trip out to see our house. But I was wrong. Given the choice of having us drive into town to stay with her for the day, and driving out to Kaaawa, she chose the drive.
We knew getting into our house wasn’t going to be easy, especially since she has trouble with stairs. When they arrived, we explained the choices. My mom is very hard of hearing, so getting a message like this across took a lot of slow talking and repeating, a little acting out. The choices were simple. Take the concrete walk which involves going down and then back up a few stairs before reaching the stairs up to the front door. The option–maneuver across the front lawn, which was wet, possibly slippery, and a bit muddy after the morning of rain, then get up the stairs to the front door. Fewer stairs on this path, but just as many obstacles.
She surprised me. With a little assistance, she made good time across the lawn. Then, with continued assistance, she slowly made it up the stairs, one at a time, pausing briefly to recover at each level, a few quick breaths, then challenging another step. Repeat. And then we were in the house!
Another little shuffle as Meda retrieved the walker, attempted to clean the mud off the wheels, and then gathered my mother’s supplies while she propelled her walker towards a chair on the other side of our living room.
Her stuff went with her. There was a colorful paper shopping bag with a ribbon, containing presents for us that she had put in a “safe place” and then couldn’t find in time for Christmas delivery. A book about varieties of grapes and wines. A large paperback book, “The Illustrated Cat,” with classic cat drawings, photos, and paintings, a sure hit in this feline-friendly household. A small plastic container with some of Bonnie’s freshly baked cookies. A second wicker bag had the morning’s newspaper, her reading glasses, a baggie with medicines, each carefully labelled with instructions for us.
After getting settled, she gave the house a careful inspection. We know that she’s sure to find the dust and cat hair missed in our quick pre-arrival sweeping, the cobwebs in hidden corners, and other signs of our sometimes half-hearted attempts at cleaning. Today she didn’t say anything. Relief on our side. She took in the paintings on the far wall. The kitchen, looking pretty neat for a change. Then she picked up her newspaper and disappeared into it for a while.
That gave Ms. Kili an opening. She was the first cat to come out of hiding. Whenever someone else comes to visit, the cats disappear. But today, Kili soon strolled back into the living room, looked around, and went straight to my mother’s chair. Her first approach was at ground level, sniffing the bags at my mother’s feet, checking out the walker. Then she moved up onto the little coffee table in front of the chair. The next move with a more direct greeting. I managed to find a camera in time to capture the moment.
(click on either photo to see a larger version)
Within an hour or so, after finishing the newspaper and a cup of peach tea, my mother decided it was time for a nap. We escorted her down the hall to our bedroom. There had been three cats sleeping on the bed, but only Romeo stayed put as she lay down and got comfortable.
Perhaps she thought I had shooed them off. She looked at Romeo, then looked up at me.
“I don’t mind the cats,” she said. Then she pulled up the comforter, created a warm cocoon, and was asleep.