Sparkly Shoes & Dress Blues
Updated: Oct 27, 2018
Anna sat on my knee as I cut up her ham. Her little head brushed under my chin, the sensation tickled as much as it was pleasant. I pulled my chin back tight into my neck and kissed the top of her head.
Anna: Hey! (craning her head back and looking up at me)
Me: Hey what?
Anna: what dat you do?
Me: (giggling and squeezing her tighter) Do? I kissed your head!
Anna: (smiling wide, showing off a little chewed ham in her mouth) … why?
Me: ‘cause you make me happy …
She nestled her head into my chest a little closer, then shot her head back and giggled. I covered her forehead with more loving kisses. I couldn’t resist that pint-size round face, the sweet little voice or the pure innocence that sat before me in this beautiful little being.
Anna: More pease!
Me: More? Look at you eatin’ up all that ham! Here … I’ll cut some of mine.
Anna: tank you
As I pulled the knife through the Anna rested her head on my right arm, her soft head laid there for a moment as I cut the rest of the ham. She felt so good in my lap, I was desperately trying to stay in the moment and just enjoy this little treasure. As I cut my mind wandered, I rolled out my check list in my head and absent mindedly glanced at my watch, 12:45 pm.
Me: Joe? (holding onto Anna’s precious little bottom and thigh as I turned in my seat to face the family room)
Joe: Yes dear …. (smirking and turning his head towards me, he knows how much I hate ‘yes dear’)
Me: I’m thinking we leave her by 2:45 we should get ready before we visit your Mom
Joe: Why don’t we just swing by and see her first?
Me: Drive to Wallingford and back? Then back to Wallingford?
Joe: yea, that way we’re not all dressed up when we go ….
I processed the timing, I also was already planning out the visit with Mom. It has become part of my routine of late to think through what we will ‘talk about’ when we visit. I was coming up short on ideas … but today I thought if we arrive dressed, well there would be plenty to talk about.
Me: No … Let’s go dressed I need to much time to plaster and spackle this face of mine
Anna: (knitting her eyebrows) paster and speckle you face?
Me: (smiling and chuckling lightly) It means I need a lot of time to put on my make-up and do my hair …
Penny: You ganna wear a pretty dress? (sitting on the bench next to us now very interested in the conversation)
Anna: ohhh petty dress?
Me: Yep and sparkly shoes … I love sparkly shoes!
Penny: Meeee too!!
Anna: (bouncing on my knee) Me too me too me too!
Me: (leaning close to both their heads and whispering) Sparkly shoes always make me feel so pretty ... don’t you think so?
Two sets of wide eyes looked up at me as I continued to talk about how handsome their Uncle Joey would look in his dress blues, how I would spend a little extra time on my hair and not forget my very glittery eye shadow … you would have thought I was talking about transforming myself into Cinderella herself.
I spent the next few hours trying to stay focused on my family, the precious gifts that surrounded me, my sisters and her husbands, my nieces and nephews and my parents that I thank God every day are in such good health. I colored with Penny, I sat with my dad for a few minutes talking about a recent trip to North Carolina and I held my Mom just a little tighter when I thanked her for making dinner for both of us.
Me: Hey you ready (placing my hand on Joe’s shoulder as he intently watched the Patriots Game)
Joe: Yea, I guess … you sure we shouldn’t just stop by my mother’s first?
Me: It’s far too late now … I need time … ya know for all of this (waving my hand over my face and guiding it over my body) … this takes a lot longer than it used to.
Joe: (shaking his head and rolling his eyes) You’re beautiful, you don’t need any of ….
Me: (cutting him off) … thanks but I do … let’s go …
…and I did need the time.
As we walked into Regency I knew my gut was right, gathering in the front room were residents with a few family members just visiting. This was a generation that loved to dress, that took pride in how they looked and always appreciated a man in uniform. We were glamorous, Joe in his dress blues and I in a long black coat with an amber and gold fur collar that filled my shoulders. The residents showered us with compliments as we hammed it up a bit walking like we were on the red carpet through the lobby.
Me: (giggling) oh they are fun
Joe: (shaking his head) you’re nuts
Me: I am … (winking) wait till we get to Mom’s unit.
We made our way down the hall, as I waited for Joe to punch the code into the key pad I peeked through the safety glass at Mom who sat in the dining room staring directly at me. I waved and watched her eyes dart from left to right. She had no idea who I was.
Joe: Here we go … (he pushed the door open and allowed me to pass)
Me: She’s in the dining room
Joe: I saw
I took a deep breath, and smiled … I smiled widely feeling my eyes start to dance. I spun to the right and entered the dining room, walking tall and regal with Joe close on my heels. An aide was the first to notice us as we entered
Aide: Wellllll …. Look at this!? Wowza … guuurl you look great!
Me: (pause to strike a quick ‘red carpet’ pose) Why thank you … we’re off to a ball this evening!
I made my way to Mom’s table, aides and residents are chattering about how beautiful we look. I stop about five feet from Mom’s chair and pause. She has heard the commotion and is studying me carefully. I know she has no idea who I am, I always have a twinge of disappointment that she doesn’t know me. After all this time you would think I’d just come to expect it, but I just can’t. I blink away the feeling and concentrate on making sure my eyes are dancing and the energy I’m filling the room with is nothing short of positive.
Me: Well hello there beautiful … how’s my girl?
Me: Look who I have with me? (pointing to Mom’s other shoulder at Joe)
MIL: (she turns looking startled to see Joe) Oh? Hello!
Me: (Leaning in a little) Doesn’t he look so handsome?!
MIL: Uh huh! (looking him up and down)
Joe: Hi Ma … (he leans down and kisses her forehead)
Aide: Wow … You two look amazing!
MIL: (looking up at me, still no recollection of who I am) Yes, you look nice
Me: Thanks Ma! I thought you’d like to see us all gussied up! (I lean down and kiss her leaving a perfect red kiss on cheek) Dang it … (wiping gently at her cheek) I got lipstick on you!
Doris: feurb me shas! Feurb …
Aide: Doris likes your shoes …
I’ve worked hard during each visit that I see Doris to understand her … and I never do. I know she gets frustrated with me, I get frustrated. I turn on my heel and pull up the hem of my dress, twisting my ankle a little allowing the light to catch the strap of sequences that dress my ankle.
Doris: WOW ….
Me: (that I understood) you like them?
Doris: uh huh!
MIL: (leaning down for a closer look herself) ohhhh that’s nice ….
Dorothy: Yes, that’s very nice, very fancy, you look so good. You should stop by more often, yes … just come in, in that … yes fancy.
Me: (giggling a little) Thanks Dorothy … you like my outfit? Did you see Joe … he’s mighty dapper too!
Dorothy: Oh yes, so handsome so nice ….
MIL: uh huh
Joe: Honey? Christine is watching you (pointing behind me over my shoulder)
Me: (I spin on my heel and wave to her) I’ll be right back I’m going to say hi …
I approach Christine’s table, she’s smiling and holding her hand out to me. This woman who I’ve only known since January is reaching for me, she knows who I am … but my own mother in-law of 28 years can’t connect with me. My heart hurts, yet I push the feeling aside. I reach toward Christine ….
Me: Hello Christine … how are you? (holding one hand and lightly stroking her shoulder)
Christine: goooood (she’s smiling and watching me almost a little star struck) gooood
Me: It’s so good to see you! You look wonderful today.
Christine: (smiling) ahhhhh (she strokes the side of my coat)
Me: Nice isn’t it? (leaning down so my fur collar is closer to her) I always feel so graceful in this coat … feel the collar …
Christine reached up never taking her eyes off my face and stroked the collar, I let her enjoy the soft texture and a glamor of the coat. I spent a few minutes with her and the other residents sharing her dining table and then excused myself to return to Mom’s table.
I walked towards the table watching Joe cutting up Mom’s meatloaf. She sat hunched over staring at her plate, hands on her lap as Joe prepped her plate. Dorothy chatted behind him about visiting again and us being ‘fancy’… silly that warmed my heart. I stood between Mom and Doris attempting small talk with Mom.
Doris: fud pease (pushing her meatloaf with a spoon)
Me: … and we’ll be at the Oakdale, is that what they’re calling it now or is it sponsored by someone…
Joe: it’s the Oakdale ….
Doris: FUD pease
Joe: Doris? Do you need help?
Me: Do you need me to cut that for you?
Doris: uh huh (looking up with her chin dropped open and her tongue slightly extended)
Me: I’ll help …
I assessed the position of her wheel chair backed against our favorite Marines wheelchair and realized I couldn’t get around the two chairs. I cautiously leaned in around Doris.
Me: Doris, I’m going to cut this up ok? (In the past, probably out of frustration Doris has had a few outbursts that I’ve witnessed … I wasn’t sure how she would react to my leaning over her to cut the meatloaf)
Doris: Ohhhhhh kayyyyy
Slowly I cut her meatloaf talking quietly as I did so. My right arm over her right shoulder my left over her left side. As I cut she leaned her head on my right arm, her eyes were closed, and a faint smile crossed her face. I flashed back to earlier in the day to Anna on my lap as I cut her ham. I hardly knew Doris, yet my heart was sad, what I saw before me was a woman that craved the human touch, a loving gesture and maybe the feeling of being special for a moment. I looked over to Mom who now was trying to scoop up her meatloaf with a knife, Joe was already picking up the fork and handing it to her.
MIL: huh? (looking up at me blankly)
Me: how’s your dinner
MIL: good ….
Doris: luv u
I hesitated, and watched Doris for a moment ... I love you ... that was her thank you, I finished cutting Doris’ dinner and gave her shoulder a squeeze. She mumbled something that resembled a thank you as I directed my attention to Mom.
Me: So … honestly is the meatloaf better than mine?
Me: (making a buzzing sound) wrong answer! You love my meatloaf!
MIL: if you say so (rolling her eyes)
Me: (giggling) I do say so! Joe’s not a huge fan … (Looking up at Joe winking … now I was grabbing for conversation starters)
Joe: it’s ok …
MIL: yea, what he said
Mom looked up at me and for a moment I thought I saw some depth in her eyes, like she was possibly going to make a connection … but it was gone as fast as it arrived. That awkward silence fell over the table. Joe stood on Moms left I on her right and we watched her eat. I scrambled in my head for what we could ‘talk about’ while Joe intercepted a new resident on Moms left from drinking Moms juice.
Me: good catch (smiling at Joe)
Joe: Here Ma, drink up
MIL: uh huh
She pushed the food around on her plate, she ate pretty well but had lost interest in what was left. Joe pulled her walker closer, so we could return to her room, once again as we made our way through the dining hall all eyes were on us. Dorothy reminded us to come back and visit soon. Christine waved and watched us adoringly, even our favorite Marine smiled as we passed. We settled Mom into her room. I covered her with love and kisses … once again wiping lipstick off her cheek, which did get a playful response from her and in turn made my heart happy for a moment.
Walking through the lobby we once again received compliments and kudos for our glamorous attire. As the sliding doors opened I smiled and waved good bye to the residents and turned back to Joe.
Me: Yep … going dressed was a good idea
Joe: it was …
Me: Who doesn’t love seeing Sparkly Shoes and Dress Blues?
Joe: (shaking his head and smiling) … yeah
Me: They loved it … and not only in Mom’s unit!
Joe kissed my cheek and opened the car door for me. As I turned to step into the car the sun caught his badge, a wave of loss flowed over me. Mom won’t remember this day, she won’t remember how handsome Joe was … my heart ached. She would have in the past been so proud of her son. I make a note to myself, next visit we talk about today and how amazing her son is. I looked down to my feet and adjusted that sparkly strap on my shoes, they were a good choice for tonight’s visit.