The Elderly and the Fluidity of Time

Posing the the Jacobi and Cook girls

Posing with the Jacoby and Cook girls

I was having lunch with my mother yesterday at the nursing home.  She wasn’t particularly alert but I had made a valiant effort to read to her and engage her in the story.  When the wait staff brought our food, I tried to engage her in conversation as I fed her.  Then, out of the blue, Mom asked me, “Who was that girl who lived at the end of the street?”

I had to shift gears quickly as I tried to figure out which town, time frame, and person she was thinking of.  I imagined that she was referring to our hometown.  Could she be referring to LaDonna who lived at one end of our street?  She had been a childhood friend but not a particularly close one.  Or was she thinking of Sandy, a friend on the other end of our street who had been a much closer friend until about junior high?

“Do you mean Sandy Staple?” I asked her.

“Yes, that’s the girl,” she replied.

“Do you remember Patty Blake,” I asked.  “She and Sandy and I were all friends.  Patty lived closer to us on our street.  I think she lived next door to the Hills.  Remember Joe and Edith Hill?”

“Sure do,” Mom answered.

Joe and Edith had been close friends of my mom and dad.  When the Hills moved to Arizona and bought a trailer in a retirement park, they convinced my parents to buy a trailer next door to them as a winter home.

Birthday Party with the Cooks and LaDonna

Birthday Party with the Cooks and LaDonna

“Do you remember the Cook children,” I chuckled.  “They were always outside in all kinds of weather, usually without coats on.  You always complained about how they never seemed to get sick even though they were outside in bad weather ‘inadequately dressed’, as you liked to say.  But you’d bundle us up like we were in Siberia and we’d always be the ones to come down with colds.”

Outside the Servens' Front Porch

Outside the Servens’ Front Porch

“Let’s see, there were the Servens who lived right next door to us.  Then they passed away and that lady moved in with the two children,” I mused.  “What was her name?  You always had her look after the house whenever you’d travel.”

Mom couldn’t remember her name but it finally popped into my head.  “Pat….remember Pat?  You gave her a key to the house and she’d keep an eye on it for you.”

Nope, Mom didn’t remember her, even though she lived next to us for a good 20 years or more.

Best friend, Judy and I

Best friend, Judy and I

“Let’s see, you remember Judy Marshall.  She’s moved back and is living with her sister, Jean now.  I don’t remember the name of their youngest sister but I am pretty sure that she just became a grandmother,” I told her.  “Judy often sends you greetings.”

Mom and her best friend, Dorothy

Mom and her best friend, Dorothy

“Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Bill lived a few streets over on Maginn Court,” I reminisced.

“Are they still alive?” Mom asked.

“No, Uncle Bill died years ago and Aunt Dorothy just passed away,” I gently reminded her.

“Now  let’s see, who was that lady who lived next to the Jacoby’s?  You know, the one who was always looking out of her window because she couldn’t stand to miss anything that was happening in the neighborhood?” I asked her.  “Oh, yes….Mrs. Morgan.  Do you remember the Morgans?”

Mom could’t remember them but another name popped into her head.  

“What about Ann Ridley?” Mom asked.

“Ann Ridley?” I replied.

I had gone to school with Ann and she was the sweetest girl.  She was beautiful, sweet, and had the most gorgeous long hair.  I hated her.  She was just so perfect and I wanted hair like hers SO badly.

“Ann lived out on Dodge Road, I think,” I responded.  “Wasn’t there a Ridley that lived on Temperance Street, though?  I think he was a relative of hers.” (Temperance Street was just around the corner from our house)

“Hey, do you remember the Van Wuffins?” I asked.

“No,” she answered.

“Sure you do,” I prompted.  “Mary and I grew up together and her dad was a janitor at the school.  The Van Wuffins lived right across the street from Grandma.”

Mom and Uncle Keith

Mom and Uncle Keith

“Is Keith still alive?” Mom asked me.

“Um, no….Uncle Keith passed away some years ago.  I think it was right before you came to live here permanently,” I told her.

Mom looked sad.  Keith and Mildred had been best friends with my mom and dad ever since Mom first moved to Michigan.  Many years later, “Aunt” Mildred had passed away and my dad had also passed away.  Mom and “Uncle” Keith got in the habit of eating Sunday dinner together and that friendship continued to blossom.  I always thought perhaps it might become something more but sadly, Keith passed away.

Mom looked sad and then she brightened.

“What about Mr. Clark?” she asked me.

“Mr. Clark, the Superintendent of Schools?” I replied.

“Yes,” she said.

“Why, Mom….let’s think about this, shall we?  He hired you to teach when you were in your 30’s.  He must have been at least in his 40’s but was probably in his 50’s.  That being the case, if he was still alive, he’d be at least 120 years old.  I think it’s safe to say that he died years ago,” I gently told her.  In fact, I knew that he had died many, many years ago but yesterday, Mom was thinking he was still alive.

We went back to eating.  We’d made a full circuit of our neighborhood back home , discussing the people and memories associated with them and I’d realized that, for Mom, many of her friends were still firmly alive in her mind.  Perhaps it was better that way.

I see more and more, as I spend time with Mom, that time is very relative with the elderly.  They move easily back and forth between the present and the past.   Mom has outlived most of her generation and friends.  Couple that with her physical condition and it’s not too hard to see that the past is probably a more pleasant place to be.




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