It’s understandable that he thought that we had much more in common than we did. We both knew the host, both were mingling with wine glasses and elegant nibbles in hand.
I mentioned that I’d spent much of the day on the phone with family, that my mother had been taken to the hospital.
He was a very nice man. He nodded sympathetically, talked about how hard it had been for him and his siblings when his parents moved into their retirement community that offered graduated care as they grew more frail. He talked about how much research his parents and siblings had done before deciding on this place, and about how helpful the financial planner had been in working out the long-term scenarios for them all.
I smiled and wandered off to to find much more wine.
It didn’t seem the time or place to tell this nice man that my mother had no real choices, that the 19 year old with six weeks of training — my mother’s primary care giver in her assisted living facility –had missed the most obvious symptoms, and when things went much further south than they ever should have, my 93 old mother finally told them that she had to go to the hospital.
And I didn’t mention that that rural hospital has been trying to hire a primary care physician for three years or that the harried nurses on her understaffed floor didn’t have any time for the daily walks that were essential to her recovery.
With those elegant nibbles in hand, it seemed the wrong time to explain that part of the problem is that my mother eats so little, that all of her meals in that place come from huge cans or big boxes in the freezer, and that in places like my hometown, where no one answers an ad for a nutritionist, my mother’s meals are planned by someone whose claim to the job is that before she worked at the gas station, she’d served meals in the high school cafeteria.
My mother is inordinately proud that she raised daughters who attend lovely holiday parties. When she was much younger, she’d imagined that she’d perhaps find her own place in such homes, among such bright people.
In our daily lives, that man and I do now have much in common, but he cannot imagine the distance between his past and mine. Nor can he imagine the complicated dance that my sisters and I have performed this week as we’ve tried to reach back across that distance to make things right for my mother.