I always wondered where I got my toes. My little toes, to be exact, each have a crunched nail rather than an actual nail bed. I found out the answer last week.
When I arrived at Mom’s room at the Boardman care facility for my weekly visit, she was especially alert. She smiled when she saw me. When I asked how she was, she responded, "Well, I’m great now."
Mom is a "bread hound." She always preferred bread and butter to a real meal. After eating the croissant I brought, I asked, "When is the last time you had a nice shampoo?" I went to the nurses’ station for a basin and shampoo, lay her bed flat and got to work.
First, I washed Mom’s hair. It had been curly my whole life due to the perms she insisted on getting, but now her hair is straight like mine. The color she once insisted on is only partially brown now and mainly white. After washing and rinsing, I put a towel under her head, then swathed her mane in a clean towel. Next, I washed her face and neck. She was so soothed, I decided to finish the job.
When I had my preemies, the NICU nurses instructed me on how to bathe a fragile newborn so the baby wouldn’t catch cold. Like then, I bathed Mom one part at a time, covering her so she wouldn’t catch a chill. She enjoyed every minute, especially her back and feet. That’s when I discovered the toes that so resemble mine.
After I’d dried and clothed her in a simple nightie, I lay down beside her to look at photos on my phone. I showed her pictures of my kids, my dogs, her brand-new great-grandchild. She smiled. She laughed. Then she said the words I will never forget: "I wish I could live with you and Laura for just a little while before I die."
I wanted to explain about wheelchair ramps and width of hallways, the fact that my daughter lives in Cleveland, 60 miles away, that I live in Wooster, 90 miles away. I wanted to tell her I work most days and could not afford full-care nursing. But instead I just lay my head on her shoulder and cuddled her close. We both cried a little.
It isn’t easy getting old. It isn’t easy to fall ill, either. Mom has done both. And yet, it is the simple things she loves: a piece of good bread, an iced tea, a shampoo, a nice cuddle, an hour together chatting on the bed.
When I left, she called out, "I love you, Honey" as I walked down the hall toward my car. The tears were falling, but it was a simply perfect day.