seated l-r: Kelley, Marie, Martha, and Mom, standing (in green), Cyndy

seated l-r: Kelley, Marie, Martha, and Mom, standing (in green), Cyndy

A while back, I wrote about my family having to move my Aunt Marie to assisted living and my receiving her Hammond organ that she and I would play when I was in high school. Her birthday party on Sunday, November 29, was the first time I had seen Marie since she moved into Brookdale. My parents, daughter, Jennifer, and granddaughter, Kelley, met us there. Dad met Cyndy and I in the lobby and took us back.

When we approached the door to the wing, I looked up at the sign at the side of the door. It said, “Memory Care Neighborhood.” That was the first time I had seen the phrase and I thought it was perfect. And that was before I entered the neighborhood.

In my experience with senior living centers – which increases with the passing of time – in each area, there is one employee that the residents cling to, as it were. In the memory care neighborhood, it was Barbara. When she first began working there, she wore red shoes all the time. When she was not there, the residents would ask where the lady with the red shoes was.

There is a reason for that. She was the “mayor” of the neighborhood. She helped our

l-r: Mom, Barbara, Jennifer, and Kelley

l-r: Mom, Barbara, Jennifer, and Kelley

family get situated with Marie in a room where we could converse. Marie insisted that her best friend, Martha, be there. Marie seemed to be more grounded when Martha was with her. Martha is her constant anchor to the present. Regardless of how her memory might fail her, Martha was there. And if Martha was there, all was right with the world.

While we were talking to Marie, I was still unsure what to say. I kept constant eye contact, but we had little interaction. However, our eyes said plenty. There were flashes where I had no doubt she knew who I was (my red hair helped – she always liked my hair. It’s as long now as it was then, but not quite as red. When she would see me on holidays during high school and after, she would feel my hair after we hugged.).

Dad and Jennifer

Dad and Jennifer

Then there were times when her mind would drift. But Martha was there, so it was okay. Marie was happier than I have seen her for years, particularly since my uncle Pick passed away. This was the deliriously happy with life Marie that used to skip church and take Dennis and I to Six Flags – riding all the rides with us. The Marie that listened and watched carefully when I played my songs on family occasions.

After Jennifer and Kelley helped Barbara and the staff divvy up the cake for everyone in the neighborhood, we went into the dining room. Dad helped scoop the ice cream to go with the cake. Jennifer helped serve. We all had a nice visit and party. Our family interacted with several residents. Of course the writer in me didn’t miss much.

Cyndy and I hugged Marie good-bye, as did the rest of the family, and we left after thanking Barbara for her help and dedication to the residents. She said that was where God led her to be. We told her that her dedication illustrated her faith.

Marie had a wonderful birthday – with family, if only briefly in recognition. She was with her best friend, Martha, and her neighbors. Barbara was there to take care of her. And God will take care of the rest.

Peace be with you.

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