The Way Home

Disclaimer: It’s all fictional, based on my personal experience, imagination, and observation over the years.

***

It wasn’t because Kayla was only five that she couldn’t understand her mother. Kayla thought that sometimes her mother simply wasn’t making much sense.

Take this morning as an example. When Kayla asked her mother why Grandma was living in that big pink place, her mother explained that Grandma was sick.

“But I don’t have to live in a big pink place when I am sick! I stay at HOME with Teddy and Bunny. And you and Daddy always come and read and sing to me until I fall asleep.”

Faye, Kayla’s 13-year-old sister, interrupted, “No, Kayla. Grandma is REALLY sick.”

“But Dr. Bob said she could go home once she’s stronger!”

“Well, that is her home now.” Kayla’s mother said matter-of-factly.

“No, it isn’t! I remember her house. It is small but it smells like roses!”

Faye rolled her eyes and said, “You’ve only been there once or twice. You can’t possibly remember!”

When her mother kept quiet, Kayla persisted, “Mommy, can’t we take her home? Our home?”

“That’s enough!” Faye shoved her little sister aside. “Last time you saw Grandma you got so scared you ran away. We’re not taking her home!”

“Hurry up, kids! You don’t want to be late for Sunday school!” Kayla’s dad waved from the car.

***

Kayla actually liked going to that big pink mansion. Her sister Faye said it was “de-la-pi-da-ted.” Although it was old and it had a funny smell to it, Kayla liked the frogs by the pond and the cornfield nearby. It was very pretty.

Most importantly, Kayla wanted to see her grandmother. She was not sure how long it had been since their last visit, but it was long enough that she finally had to ask her mother about it. Kayla didn’t understand why her mother always behaved strangely when she asked about Grandma.

Kayla loved her mother a lot. Sometimes she wondered if she would still love her mother a lot when her mother was her grandmother’s age.

“Mom, these are for you!” Kayla handed her mother a bunch of paper carnations after Sunday school.

“They are beautiful! Did Mrs. Wilson teach you how to make them?”

“No. I taught everyone! Mrs. Wilson wanted us to make something for Mother’s Day. Grandma showed me how to make flowers out of toilet paper last time, so I showed the other kids.” Kayla grinned.

Kayla’s mother held those flowers closer to her chest, “Thank you, sweetie. I am proud of you…”

Something was wrong. Kayla noticed the startled look on her mother’s face as her voice suddenly trailed off. That’s not the look one would expect from a supposedly proud mother.

“Mommy, can I send some flowers to Grandma?”

“Mommy? Are you listening?”

When they got into the car, Kayla’s dad commented on those flowers. “Good job, little girl!”

“Grandma taught me how to make them. I want to send some to her.”

Glancing at his wife and then his younger daughter, Kayla’s dad spoke in a soft, hesistant voice, “Maybe you can bring her some when we go see her next week.”

“We’re going there next week?” Faye removed her headphone and frowned.

“We’re going to see Grandma on Mother’s Day!” Kayla was the only one who seemed to be excited about it.

(To be Continued…)

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About C

If you consider volunteering at a luncheon for older adults as my first exposure to the field, I have been in geropsychology for at least twenty years. As family, friend, volunteer, trainee, and professional, I have found myself in adult day care centers, senior centers, senior living facilities, nursing homes, medical and psychiatric wards, hospice, and personal homes of older adults. Wherever I go, be it an orphanage, a museum, a prison, an airport, or a random corner in the neighborhood, issues related to aging and mental health often come to mind. I used to think that I could make a difference only if I became a top-notch researcher, educator, or clinician. As I continue to follow this meandering path, it dawns on me that as a nobody in the field, I can still add my light to the sum of light by sharing what I know. Over the years, I have "converted" a few very dedicated individuals to focus on aging-related work within their respective disciplines and encouraged a handful more to stay in this field despite its winding course. I believe by bringing aging and mental health issues to the foreground, we will amass a stronger force to promote advocacy, research, and quality care.
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