My mother greeted me at the door to her apartment this morning and literally the first thing she said to me was "I'm old, Bev. Do you think I'm going to make a hunnert?"
I've seen her more in the last couple of weeks than I usually do, and I'll be there tomorrow because I have to bring her her pills for next week, but when I see her that often, visits are really getting awkward.
After we've discussed her reaching hunnert and whether she wants a party or not and do I think she'll really live that long and why she's lived this long anyway, the next round of questions (repeated over and over again) are "So what have you been doing that's exciting?" and "What do you have coming up tonight that's exciting?"
I'm really going to have to start making things up, which would be fine because she doesn't retain anything anyway.
Yesterday she was asking me about writing reviews ("things," she calls them) and so I was going great guns on some feature articles I'd written and how I felt doing them. I told her about interviewing designer John Iacavelli, my very first feature article interview and how terrified I was.
I told her that he was on the phone when I got there, that I was feeling terribly unprepared, and that as I sat there waiting for him to get off the phone, I was looking at the books in the bookcase and found a book by photographer Ruth Bernhard and how I'd met her and that started our chat and after that things went well.
I also told her about interviewing the "living legend," Yvonne Brewster 9 years ago, and how lovely she had been and how easy the interview had been.
She seemed to be listening eagerly and then asked where the articles would be printed. I told her that they were in the Davis Enterprise and that they were printed a long time ago. Five minutes later she wanted to know where my "things" were going to be printed.
Today I told her about the video I'd seen on You Tube about an exploding whale, the disastrous consequences of trying to blow up a dead whale washed up on Oregon shores a couple of years ago. That one made her laugh and when we had gotten the most out of it she asked what I had been doing that was exciting and what exciting I had coming up tonight.
Since most of my days are spent trying to figure out what to say to her when we sit and stare at each other in silence and my evenings are spent sitting and watching TV, I think the thing to do before I go to visit her every day is to scour the internet finding funny things to tell her about. That at least fills the time in between her asking me what I've been doing exciting.
I tried asking her if she had watched Dancing with the Stars, which she always liked, but she doesn't know how to change the stations on her TV and doesn't know where the stations are because they aren't the same ones she had in her old home. I told her -- again -- about the guide I had made for her, but she didn't seem interested. She says she doesn't watch TV much and then just watches whatever channel is on. I asked her if she ever changes the channels and she found the question surprising. Of course not. I think she watches QVC all the time because that's the channel that is currently on the TV and she doesn't seem interested in picking up the remove and checking anything else.
I was pleased to notice on her calendar that Niecie is coming to visit her on Monday and she is getting her hair cut on Tuesday, so I'll have those two days off and please God let Niecie remember to pick up her damn flower pots so I can stop hearing the way my mother remembers the plants dying and how Niecie is going to have to come and pick up the pots.
I noticed today that one of her violets has been thrown out because it died. It needed water, and she agreed that it needed water,but she never watered it because she doesn't make those connections any more. "Dying plant" no longer means "water it." She was the womn who had the most prolific, full blooming African violets I'd ever seen and it sends a pang to see that she no longer cares....or, more accurately, is no longer able to care.
But we had lunch in the dining room today and ate with a woman I had not met before, named Jean. Jean knew my mother by name and knew about her ice cream addiction, and the chef, Robert, walked through and stopped to ask my mother if she was waiting for her ice cream, so whether she realizes it or not, as we near the one year anniversary of her moving to Davis, she has settled in, she has friends that she doesn't know she has ("I have no friends here, but that's OK"), people know her, and while a lot of her conversations are pure fiction, she has them. We walked to the dining room behind her next door neighbor, whom she recognized as a neighbor and commented that she is "a nice lady."
There is no excitement in her life, and no excitement in my life, but maybe if I'm very clever and find things to report that I've read, we can get through each visit with laughter.