At 89 years, Mum has lost the art of conversation. Visits at the Home can prove challenging. Keeping up a one-sided flow of chatter, recitations of family happenings and entertaining accounts of life trivia is an exhausting ordeal.
Brainstorm: Stay for lunch!
And so it happened that during my last 4 day visit, we did lunch every day. A table of four in the dining hall, catered to and served by personal care attendants, OT's and nurses, we dined on senior-sized rations of nutritionally-balanced, calorie-counted offerings. I needed to loose ten pounds anyway.
The daily ritual never varied: the residents began shuffling towards the dining hall a half hour early, like cows to the barn without being called. Each one knew her place and guarded it territorially.
You sit here, Mum directed me.
Can you please bring my daughter a bib, she asked a server?
Glancing at each grey-headed one around the table, indeed around the whole room, one was struck by the checkered pattern of blue or white bibs across each breast.
It's okay, Mum. I'll use my napkin.
You need a bib, was her determined reply.
For three days I managed to avoid The Bib. Servers and other guests smiled and joked about my ability, or lack thereof, to consume tomato soup without mishap to my new sweater, or spaghetti sauce on my clean blouse, or gravy on my fleece vest. There must have been some reason for Mum to be unstoppable in her quest to have me bibbed.
Please bring my daughter a bib.
My daughter needs a bib.
This is my daughter, Rosemary.
We need a bib here please.
You need a bib.
A rush of butterfly flutters swelled in my chest as the humiliation of adults in bibs began to be pressed upon me. In the entire dining room, I was the only one seated at table without one.
I didn't need one.
I didn't want one.
My face grew hot, pulse picked up...and...I gave in.
Was I better than these seniors who so sweetly welcomed me into their midst? They willing wore their bibs with grace.
"When in Rome...", I quipped.
Lunch was done. I looked forward to supper. My bib was unblemished as I finished my diced pears for dessert, but what was completely finished, was the angst about the bib. Had my mother taught me a lesson in political correctness and manners, or had her few remaining synapses fired repeatedly in predictable patterns related to eating without a mess? Either way, our four days of visits had passed too quickly and I left wishing they could have stretched out longer.
By the way, Mum's last words at table to me were:
You are wearing your bib inside out. I can see the label.