Could They Be Soul Mates? By Lori La Bey
I remember coming to visit my Mother one summer’s day as she was sitting outside on the bench. We talked about many things, but today, she had this glow about her. This girlish smirk was plastered to her face and she could not wipe it clean if her life depended on it. I asked her what she was so happy about. She talked of a new friend she had met at the nursing home. She told me he was tall and handsome. They talked about everything, went for walks, and held hands. They would sit outside each night and watch the sunset. Mom was smitten with this man! She was so happy to find someone to confide in. Someone who wanted to be with her. Someone who made her feel worth wild again. A true companion. When I asked Mom this man’s name, she continued to smile and said, “Oh Lori, I can’t remember, you know I have Alzheimer’s.” and then she giggled.
Each day I would visit in hopes of meeting this man. Maybe she would remember his name, point him out to me, or better yet introduce me to him. I wanted to meet him. I was curious and excited about meeting this man who made my Mom so happy. I was checking out every man on her floor trying to figure out from her description who he was. He was tall, built solid, but not fat, and had gray hair. As hard as I would try, I had no luck. Then I began to wonder, was it was a resident or a visitor. I decided I better talk with the staff and make sure Mom was safe.
The nurse I talked to was a bit reluctant to talk to me at first. After our discussion, I knew why. You see, the man Mom described, was actually a woman. I was told the Staff had been monitoring the friendship. This is something they do with all relationships to ensure everyone is safe. The poor Nurse who had to tell me, had no idea what my reaction would be. I can only imagine her discomfort and the various reactions staff must get from families. I was pretty sure this was not the first time they had this type of situation.
I told her I was fine with the relationship as long as Mom was happy and not being harmed. I had not seen that spark in her eyes in a long, long time. She was so peaceful. She was in love! I was not about to take that away from her. Once I knew who the woman was, I could see how my Mother might think she was a man. The woman did have a manly build and manner about her, but bottom line was she made my Mother very happy. In my eyes she was a gift to my Mother.
A few weeks went by and I never told my Mother the man she was in love with was a woman.
What was the point? She was happy and that was so nice to see. I did wonder how she would react if she found out. Would she even understand or care? Would she be ok with it or would it end? Given her age and her upbringing, I really had no idea how she would react given her disease. Then one day when I came to visit my Mother, I saw her sitting on the bench outside. Her face was red and angry. Her arm crossed and tightly pressed into her body. I asked her what was wrong and she would not tell me. I asked where her friend was and she said they were not seeing each other anymore. She said sternly, “We broke up!” When her friend walked by us, I thought my Mother was going to blow her cork. She was seething mad and we had to move and get out of the area her ex-friend was now in. This angry, hateful mood took over my Mother and it lasted a good month, maybe more.
I asked the staff what happened to cause their break up, and that is when I got upset. Someone told my Mother the man she fell in love with was a woman. To this day it makes me livid, someone felt they had the right to take my Mother’s happiness away.
I know everyone will not agree with me, on this one. Same sex relationships are a hot topic, but the simple pleasure of being loved and accepted is a quality of life issue to me. An issue I take very seriously. This was not an abusive relationship or one driven by sex or money, but a relationship built on companionship. It was as if my Mother had found her soul mate.
To this day, I do not know who told my Mother. Was it staff? Was it someone in my own family with a different view afraid to discuss the issue? Was it another resident or a visitor my Mother befriended? I will probably never know, and it is most likely best I do not find out.
I do think it is an important subject to discuss as a family. How would you handle this situation? Would you let your perceptions, your ego, and your needs outweigh their rights? It’s not an easy thing to think about let alone have a decision about, but we must if we are going to be the best caregivers possible.