Sometimes, a day spent with mom can be quiet and a little boring. She rarely comes out to the living room or kitchen anymore, unless it is to retrieve food or medicine. She keeps herself tucked away in her room or in the computer room. On those days we sometimes wonder, does she really need someone here at every hour of the day?
And then we have a day like today. And we are reminded with certainty that mom should not be left alone.
To make a long story short, we had nobody to watch mom this morning. I found out yesterday that her usual Friday morning caregiver had a last minute doctor's appointment that she had to attend. Everyone I called had appointments and I had a dentist appointment this morning as well. And you know how those go...if you don't give a 24 hour cancellation notice, they charge you for the missed appointment. Mom had told me yesterday afternoon that she didn't want anyone over this morning because she had to wash her hair and take a shower. So after a few fruitless phone calls and talking with my dad, we (apprehensively) figured she would be okay until I was done with my dentist appointment, at which point I would come by and stay with her.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I walked up to mom's front door after my appointment this morning; both doors were closed and locked. The last time mom had made an escape, she left the door cracked open. I assumed she was home. I let myself in the house, locked the door behind me, set down my things, and got my son settled in. Then I made my way to the back of the house to see what mom was up to. The door to the computer room was shut and it was about that time that she would normally be playing her games. I turned on the knob, expecting it to be locked (as usual) but to my surprise it immediately opened. Mom's desk chair was empty. That grabbed my attention right away and as I glanced further down the hall, my heart skipped a beat; mom's bedroom door was wide open (she never leaves her door open when she's in there). I rushed to her room and as expected, her bed was empty. I looked in her usual hiding places-the closet, bathroom, alongside her bed.
"Mom? Mom, where are you?!" I called, trying not to panic.
When I searched all the rooms in the house and couldn't find my mom, I knew well enough that she had gotten out. I grabbed my purse and my keys and my son (who was protesting that he hadn't gotten his peanut butter and jelly sandwich yet) and hurried out the front door. I figured there were only a few places she would have gone: the Avon lady's house (which I would've likely seen her if that was the case, as the Avon lady is at her other job right now and mom would have been walking back home), the grocery store or my Aunt's house. Being that it is Friday, I turned on the street leading to my Aunt's house.
I made it almost the entire way to my Aunt's house when I finally spotted my mom at the top of the road, wearing her thick, fleece blue jacket and jeans and carrying one purse on each shoulder (one is for her lunch). [The advantage to mom wearing the same clothes everyday is that she's easy to find or describe in a situation like this!] She was walking my direction at the top of the street but not in her usual, fast paced sprint. Instead, her walk looked almost shuffled and she moved slowly, looking around as though she was confused. When I pulled up closer, I saw that her face was bright red and her make-up was dripping with the sweat on her skin. I pulled over to the side of the road, put the car park and put on my hazard lights and called to her,
"Mom, mom! It's me, Cassandra. Your daughter."
She looked confused.
"Ellen, Ellen? I'm trying to find Ellen's house..."she mumbled, waving her finger in the air.
"Mom it's me, Cassandra," I said, as I approached her. I put my arm around her and felt her hair, drenched in sweat. I directed her to the car, repeating to her who I was. After several seconds, she finally registered that it was me.
"Oh oh, Cassandra? You're Cassandra? But I couldn't find Ellen's house-it's so weird-I couldn't find it..." she said (with some other unrecognizable words mixed in here and there).
"I know momma, you shouldn't leave the house alone. I'm so glad you're okay," I said, helping her inside the car.
She continued her chatter about how she had been looking for her sister's house and it was obvious that she was very flustered and very tired. My heart hurt as I looked at my poor, confused mom. I swallowed the lump in my throat and said a silent prayer of gratitude that she was okay. I took her home and got her settled in (lunch and nap) but despite my efforts, I couldn't get her to take off her jacket or drink any water (although she did take some sips of her root beer). She complained that she was cold and it was no wonder; her shirt was completely drenched in sweat. Her eyes were pink and her face still flushed even half an hour later, but I could not get her to cooperate with me to change her clothes or take more than a small sip of water.
For now, she is resting in her bed. I am very glad that she is safe. It was a rough reminder that mom shouldn't be left alone. Next time, I'll just pay the darned appointment cancellation fee!