When I used to visit my mom in her assisted living or skilled nursing facility, I always came armed.
Now, before anyone jumps to any conclusions, let me explain…
As with many individuals who have dementia, my mom’s personality changed as the years passed. We dealt with bouts of confusion, depression, anxiety and ultimately mistrust of family members, especially me. It’s one of the experiences that is the harshest for a family–when you go from having a strong, trusting relationship to one that is filled with suspicion and fallacies.
By all accounts, my mom was refined, polite and kind. She enjoyed helping others and relished in her family–especially her grandsons. As my mom would say “I love being a parent but I REALLY love being a grandparent.
So, when the bouts of confusion, depression, anxiety and mistrust became permanent parts of her personality, I began to prepare mentally and physically for visits. Before I would visit– as my heart rate would accelerate– I would set an intention. This intention went something like this “be positive, stay calm, and breathe”. Sometimes this intention worked….and sometimes- alright many times- it didn’t.
But there was one thing I could count on which brings me back to “being armed”. You see, I brought along a peace offering when I visited. This peace offering was in the form of a small plastic bag with 5 grape tomatoes in it. My mom always loved vegetables so as I entered the room, I’d make sure the “gold” was in plain sight. She may not have always been excited to see me, but the little bag of tomatoes was consistently welcomed.
These tomatoes were a gift…to both of us.
They allowed us to have a relationship when many times this was hard to accomplish. They allowed me to “give” while she could “receive”. They gave us time to engage in conversations.
You would be surprised how much there is to talk about when eating tomatoes…
And, I’d like to believe deep down, the tomatoes made it past dementia to symbolize the strong relationship we had always had in the past.
I wish I could remember the last time I brought over the little bag of tomatoes, but I don’t. But, the memory of the little bag of tomatoes in my hand is a strong, salient one and I hold on to the idea that each time there was a bag of tomatoes being exchanged between us there was a moment of normalcy.
And grape tomatoes?
They are a favorite of mine as well and the thought of the peace offering of the past is never far from thoughts…