Monica's mom, Dorothy, had a stroke February 26. The day after the Oscars. She didn't call or answer the phone when Jennifer Hudson won. That was strange but we assumed she fell asleep or had gone to an Oscar party. That wouldn't be unusual for her very active 86 year old self. She was involved in several groups, traveled a lot, and as a former school teacher even tutored occasionally. She still drove around in that big Fleetwood Cadilac with her new implanted lens she called her "bionic eye".
She was talking when we found her but hasn't since due to the massive stroke. Now stable but still very debilitated in a nursing facility, it's hard on Monica to see her mom so non-responsive. But, she knows we're there, especially when Monica is telling her all the news or her niece is talking a blue streak...and she'll almost always answer Moni's request for a thumbs up.
Dorothy was a dancer and choreographer from exotic dance to classical ballet, but her specialty was tap. I've seen her out tap and learn routines faster than dancers 40 years her junior. It was amazing. She owned a dance studio for many years and produced many shows. Monica and I sometimes sing all the songs to her from the production numbers hoping someday she'll tell us to just stop it!
An administrator at the nursing facilty recognized Monica's mom as her high school English teacher and dance instructor. She remembered how unsure of her teenage self image she was and how Dorothy made her feel beautiful and confident, not to mention her good diction and English usage skills. Her recollections were complete with great Dorothy animation. This was not only touching and hilarious but wonderful for Monica.
Listening to this former student's gratitude to her teacher's influence made me look closer at the other patients and residents. What did they do? What had they been? Something to remember is, whatever it was, they still are. Thinking about this and Alexandra's story, I realize how fortunate we are if we have someone to catch us before we're sitting by a 7-11. Fortunate to have someone remember our contributions and jokes and talents. I thought of a Bette Midler song I love that speaks about the old, the ill, disabled or disenfranchised and how we should take time to look into their eyes.