It was not one of her better nights.
I had called her in the mid afternoon to ask if she would be interested in driving around town to see some of the decorated houses. She said it sounded like fun. I remember that was one of the pleasant Christmas things we did when I was growing up. We would go out into "the avenues" in San Francisco and look at the houses, decorated in Christmas lights. I was looking forward to doing it with her again. I told her Walt and I would come and have dinner at Atria with her and then we would go out after dinner. She said that was fine.
I thought we could go a bit before dinner and have a cocktail hour, since she loves her vodka tonics and it would be a bit like old times to be sitting there and chatting over drinks.
But when we got there, she was not in her apartment. I always worry when she doesn't answer the door because I'm afraid I'll go in and find her on the floor, dead, but she wasn't. The apartment was empty, so we headed up to the dining room.
Yes, she was there, surprised to see us. She didn't remember we were coming.
The people she had been eating with were just finishing their dinner, so they offered us their seats and they left. She asked what we had been doing, and I told her about the funeral. Then she asked us what we had been doing. Several times. Each time we told her about the funeral.
The waitress delivered her dinner and she was surprised to find it on the table, not having remembered the waitress had just been there. She asked what it was and said she didn't order it, but since it was there she might as well eat it. Then she asked what we had been doing all day and what we were going to do after dinner. I reminded her we were going out to look at lights and she seemed surprised that we were going to take her too.
I noticed she was more quiet than she usually is. Kind of sunk into herself, arising periodically to ask us what we had been doing.
When a man walked by with green mint chip ice cream and Walt expressed surprise that they had green mint chip ice cream, my mother said that of course that was what they had. It's what she always orders, she says, and immediately told the waitress she wanted a vanilla cone (which is what she really always orders). When the cone came, she was shocked that they had given her 3 scoops, though they always give her 3 scoops. She said she couldn't possibly eat that much and would take the leftovers to her apartment, but then ate it all anyway.
It was a fairly normal visit, though I did wonder if she was showing signs of a bit of Sundowners Syndrome, where older people with dementia are worse after dark than before dark (though if you never leave the building, I don't know if that is a factor anyway).
We went back to the apartment so she could get a coat so we could go look at the Christmas lights. She did and we went out to the car.
I was tickled because I had brought my iPod with me, with a playlist of Christmas music and I was going to put it on, but something happened and the music never started. I didn't realize how much I had looked forward to playing Christmas music on our travels until I couldn't play Christmas music, because Christmas music was always a big part of the season when I was growing up, and I wanted to bring back that memory for her. After trying several things, I could get an audio book to play, but still not the music on my Christmas playlist.
I decided to give it the "kick it" fix, turning off the iPod and then turning it on again. When it came on, I chose the Bing Crosby record that we always played while trimming the Christmas tree, both when I was growing up, and then when our kids were growing up. I crossed my fingers and pressed "play."
Miraculously, it started.
So there we were, driving around all these beautifully lit homes in Davis and in the back, my mother is singing along to Bing Crosby. I got all choked up and teary-eyed. It was a perfect Christmas present. It was a moment of "normal." I read recently that music is wonderful therapy for dementia patients and that even when they can't communicate in other ways, often they can still sing familiar songs.
My mother may not remember that we went to a funeral this afternoon, but by golly she sang every single one of those Bing Crosby tunes without a stumble.