In the old days this would have been impossible to even imagine. In her prime, my mom was efficient, competent and although she was loving she was the antithesis of silly. And she certainly didn’t play dress-up.
She's not the same woman now, though, between her trifecta of illnesses she no longer has strongly held opinions or a ridged sense of herself. I suspect that she’d no longer care what I put on her head.
I went into Marshall's next and let the racks and shelves of bright colors and clashing patterns soothe me.
My mom wouldn’t have liked Marshall's, she has always been a minimalist down to her bones. Not only was she anti-clutter, she was anti-pattern, anti-all-but-muted, inoffensive earth tones. The walls of her house were white. Her furniture was modern -- straight lines and right angles. Her surfaces were clear. Even the inside of her drawers were tidy.
She wore crisply tailored clothes in solid colors, except for the occasional horizontally striped shirt. No bows, or ruffles, no lace, or trim. Her hair is always short and neat. So was mine, as long as she was in control of me, and I was dressed as a mini-mom, at least in the family photos.
So as a kid I wanted long hair, of course, and craved splashy, extravagant, billowing excess. But my girlhood bedroom reflected my mom’s sensible, no-nonsense taste, tidy, fitted bedspreads, white sheets and crisp solid curtains.
Flash forward fifty years. When I moved my parents into their apartment in assisted living, I tried to miniaturize their house, maintaining their style and sensibility. Since that time, however, my dad died and my mom's dementia, Parkinson's and macular degeneration have advanced. Now I am about to move my mom from her apartment to a single room with 24/7 care.
This move requires paring her already pared down possessions, art, furniture, even further. This move requires replacing the queen bed she and my dad shared forever, with a twin.
As I wandered the aisles of Marshall's looking for replacement bedding for her, it occurred to me that this was my chance to get her back for all the beige-ness of my childhood. I could buy her a screamingly gaudy bedspread maybe one with fringe or sequins. How about this furry, blue Cookie Monster pillow? Animal print sheets? She's pretty blind, anyway and would hardly notice!
Ha! If she got mad, she wouldn't remember it long enough to hold a grudge. She'd forget the whole thing within moments.
Suddenly all the fun went out of my fantasy as I realized how easy it would be to seriously abuse my poor mom. Even her minor dementia renders her nightmarishly vulnerable. My mother's senior housing complex is full of addled older people who are dependent on the kindness of strangers. People with only the most tenuous hold on their own dignity and self respect. Defenseless, powerless elders incapable of fighting back, unable to fend off pink hairbands or flowered bedspreads. And beyond her building, countless others…
After a brief, panicked cry among the sheets and towels, I quickly bought my mom a tasteful solid color quilt and felt lucky to be able to do so.