She says it several times each day as she wanders the hall or enters the dining room. "Oh, Virginia! I don't know what to do."
I'd thought it was just she, talking in the third person like any of us might in a moment of confusion, but she was on my mind as I drove home in the dark the other night. As I approached our driveway I said it out loud. "Oh, Virginia! I don't know what to do," and the thought struck me that perhaps she was repeating what a former caretaker may have repeated over and over himself. After all, wasn't that how I so often felt while taking care of my own aging and forgetful mother?
Virginia's husband died last year. I didn't know him. I don't know if he was sick. I don't know if he was her caretaker. I only know that her words echo the sad desperation of someone who loved her very much. Someone who didn't "know what to do." And I can relate, even if it's just a little bit.
She's a sweet woman whose gone backward in life and is once again a child. I've asked her about her family. She had three brothers, but even if I mention their names she provides no recollection, and yet she remains sweet and beautiful. She is not combative. She smiles and is friendly. She loves to have her back scratched. She will sit, hold your hand, and be happy. She has good table manners and likes to eat dessert first. At least sometimes, especially if it's chocolate pudding.
Her daughter came the other day. "Has she always been so sweet?" I asked her. And she told me she had. Her disease had only confirmed the sweetness in her soul. "I would have like to have known her five years ago," I said. And it was true. I'm sure this lady had a wealth of wisdom, love, and patience. I hope one day, if I live to lose my memories, that there will be a sweet soul left to encourage someone, even if my words and wisdom are lost.
(PS. That is my own mom in the photo.)
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