Plan a date and time.
Get your Target trip on her calendar, in writing. If you plan it with her on the phone, remind her just before hanging up to go to her calendar and write it down. This may or may not happen.
On the day of, locate Mom.
There is a fifty-fifty chance she will not be waiting for you in her room. It is a long walk through those all too quiet hallways. Check the game room, TV room, and library first. She may already be seated for lunch, having forgotten your plan. The best time to schedule these little trips is 1:30 PM. Lunch is over. Blood sugar is up. It is well before 3:00 PM when Bingo starts. She is devastated if she misses it.
Find shopping list, room key, sweater.
Your mother’s key is either on an orange plastic coil around her wrist, or in the damn red zipper handbag. You gave her a new purse, but she misplaced it. The three zipper design is beyond her operational capabilities. If she is looking for her key or shopping list she will zip and unzip the same zipper innumerable times. Best if you do the checking. If the key and/or list is not in the red zipper bag, search all pants and shirt pockets. Her sweater can be found on the back of a chair or hanging in the closet under the bathrobe.
Remember her cane.
Your mother will insist she does not need her cane, that she is fine without it. She is not OK without it. Start by saying, “Well, I’m afraid you may slip and fall, then what would I do?” If that doesn’t work and she remains determined, put on your look, you know you have one, it is the one she used on you when you were a kid. Raise your left eyebrow, and say, “Well then, we are not going.” That will do the trick.
On your long walk with her down the hallway to the elevator, expect her to say, “I hope you have my credit card, because I don’t have dime one. I never have any money.”
Every month on the first you withdraw $100 from your mother’s account and give it to the lady at the front desk. The lady gives you a receipt then locks the cash in a safety box kept behind the reception area. All Mother has to do is ask at the front desk for money from her safety box and they will oblige her. You’ve told her this, and told her this, and written a big note in green on the white board in her room, and told her once again.
You used to give the $100 to her. It would be gone in less than one week. She had no idea where it was going. You tried a little money log, kept with the cash in the carved wooden box on her kitchenette counter, but that didn’t work. She’s spending with abandon, on what you wonder, losing her cash, or an employee at The Residence is stealing. You can’t tell which and don’t have the energy to make accusations or conduct an investigation. Keep this in mind at all times: she is not behaving this way on purpose.
Get Mom into the car and buckle her seat belt.
Parking at The Residence is a nightmare and the likelihood of scoring a spot close to the front entrance is marginal. Have Mother wait on the wrought iron bench next to the large pot of marigolds while you go get the car. If she is not there when you pull up, she is just inside the front door heading back to the elevators.
When you are ready to get her into the car, open the passenger door and have her put her left hand on the car to balance herself, then take the cane from her and hold onto her right hand. Otherwise, she will manage to block the opening with her cane and will not be able to figure out why she can’t get in. Buckle the seatbelt for her. Mother fastening a car safety belt is similar to the damn red zipper purse routine. Be prepared for her to say, “Well, how would I remember how to do this? I can’t tell you how long its been since I’ve been in a car.”
Drive to Target.
Answer the question, “Now, where is it we are going?” fifteen times during the ten minute drive to Target. Answer with patience and love, this is your mother.
Shop at Target.
Walk around Target and respond to the following questions, posed numerous times during any one outing: “Now, what is it we are here for?” and “What store is this?” and “Where is my list? I know I made one.” She will also wonder why you took her to Target. Count on her saying, “But, I don’t need anything at all.”
Locate Starbucks inside Target.
After thirty minutes you will both need a caffeine fix. Situate your mom on a Starbuck’s chair and pile the purchases on a chair next to her. When you bring coffee back to the table, she will be grateful. She will question if you two are going to do any shopping that day.
Get Mom back into the car and buckle her seatbelt.
Walk Mom back to her room.
Be sure you are the one to carry all the bags, even if she insists she can handle one or more. Remember that unfortunate experience in the lobby involving a bottle of wine when you still believed she could manage a shopping bag, her cane, her sweater, and her damn red zipper bag all at one time. Place the shopping bags on the coffee table and answer her question, “What on earth is in all those bags?”
Kiss Mom good-bye.
Walk down the long, long hallway. Wonder how it got even longer since one-thirty, when you arrived to pick her up. Listen to the reverberation of the slapping cracking noise your flip-flops make as they smack against your bare feet.
Prepare to go home.
Get back in your car and slam the door, hard. Breathe. Pinch the space high on your nose, between your eyes. Hold the tears in. Breathe again.