Sunday, September 19, 2010

Breakfast with Young Bob Flynn

I'm pinch-hitting as Young Bob Flynn's (aka, my 90-year-old mother-in-law) Sunday morning breakfast buddy this weekend while the Wonderfully Patient Spouse is helping to shut down the St. Joe Fishing Lodge in the pouring rain.

Somehow, I think I'm in the better place.

As I think I've mentioned before, Young Bob Flynn needs a little extra help these days as dementia quietly snuffs out her memories of everything from family and friends to how to put on socks, but still -- she's a force to be reckoned with in her own wonderful, indomitable way. Most days, life is "in perfect harmony," as she likes to say.

As noted previously, morning duty with Young Bob Flynn is not without its perils -- especially the waking up part. Fortunately, the fine people at her assisted living complex had already done some of the heavy lifting.

"She's awake but doesn't want to come to breakfast," the aide told me as I headed up to her apartment.

"Hi Bobbie. It's me, Mary, Brad's wife," I hollered as I opened the door.

"We're going to breakfast together this morning," I added, approaching her bed and taking her hand in mine.

She popped up out of her bed bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

"Why, how delightful! In perfect harmony!" she exclaimed.

"And who are you again?"

Together, we retrace The Family Tree a couple of times, along with my particular branch in it. Seeming to understand, Young Bob Flynn beams, her eyes, though dimmed by macular degeneration, still glow with delight.

"Why yes, of course. You're Brad's wife, Mary. Welcome, my dear. It's so nice to have you join the family," she says, patting my hand. This always cracks me up. So much for 35 years of marital bliss.

As I help her dress for breakfast, we chat about inconsequential things: The weather, Ben the dog, the WPS' soggy weekend adventure. As a final touch, I comb out her hair, styling it gently around her patrician face (There are women who would kill for her cheekbones.)

"We can't have any bed head, now, can we, Bobbie?"

She turns to me, looking happily off into the distance while softly chuckling. "You know who you are?" she asked, shaking one of her elegantly tapered fingers at me. "You're an angel. I can see your wings!"

I laugh and call her an angel too, but secretly I'm relieved. During one visit, the YBF thought I was a dog. Dog to Angel in just a matter of weeks? Woot! Just call me an up-and-comer and excuse my dust!

Breakfast is a delight. Young Bob Flynn's table mates -- Dolores, Sister Chloe and Edna -- are a stellar group of gals. Over coffee, juice, cinnamon rolls, fried eggs and sausage, we cover a myriad of topics: Mother Theresa, World War I, allergies, our favorite Sunday breakfasts, cats and the fact Edna takes 14 pills in the morning and in the evening (possibly an assisted living record?!) -- punctuated with enthusiastic "In perfect harmonies!" from the YBF every few minutes or so. It's all good.

Back in Young Bob Flynn's apartment, we put on some of her music and I tidy up. Soon, though, it's time to bid my farewells. I have a very patient dog back home waiting for his walk, and Young Bob Flynn is looking a little tuckered.

I reach down and give her a hug and kiss good-bye. The YBF squeezes me back and thanks me for a wonderful morning, then pauses and rests a generous hand on my arm.

"Now, Mary, after all you've done, are you sure I can't give you a ride home?"

That Young Bob Flynn. What a scamp. She hasn't owned a car in years and needs help finding her way back to her apartment. And yet. While her memory and body may be failing her, her heart is still full and overflows with love, affection and gratitude for the small, simple moments we cobble together and call life.

No, Bobbie. I don't need a ride home. Just a meal with you now and then. That's all I need.

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