Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Teeth

The elevator doors open onto the second floor and I see the usual, the women, my mother who is now 88, and her friends, sitting in their usual spots in the seating area right off the elevator. Something immediately strikes me as odd. Odd however, is just another word for normal on the second floor. My mother greets me with her usual excited outburst of pure joy, throwing her arms out towards me and shouting my name over and over “Gailie! Gailie!"

Oh my, as I greet my mother I am just beginning to allow the shock to enter my system. I have grown accustomed to arriving on the second floor for The Assisted Living and finding all kinds of what I used to feel were unexpected surprises. Now the variety and style of surprises have just become routine and not much throws me anymore, except for tonight.

My mother continues to grin at me broadly. I am taken completely back by the peculiar look of her smile. What is happening here? I can’t seem to grasp exactly what is wrong with this picture even though at some level I am becoming quite sure. Time seems to have come to a complete stop in my world as I stare at my mother in complete disbelief.

Oh yes, as I force myself to get a grip of this bizarre smile on my mother’s face, I have to come to grips with the undeniable fact that she is wearing someone else’s teeth! In retrospect now it all seems rather hilarious but at the time it felt more horrifying than funny. A million thoughts were racing through my mind. Where did she get these teeth? Whose teeth are they? Where are her teeth?

Of course my mother was in blissful unawareness that she looked like a completely different person and that these teeth did not by any stretch of the imagination fit into her mouth. There would be no answers coming from my mother as she has lost the ability to remember what took place just a moment ago. I did manage to get her back into her room and find her own teeth right where they always are. To this day the mystery of the strange set of teeth has not been solved.

After washing her face and tucking her into bed we talk for a bit. She asks me if she was a good mother. I tell her she is the best. I ask her if she remembers Daddy, my father. She looks off into space with a blank look that has become so familiar, and says she is sorry, she cannot remember. I kiss her and tell her it is ok. I look at her and my eyes fill with tears. There are no words, no memories, no tangible thing to explain what goes on here between mother and daughter. It is as vast as the universe, as deep as the sea and it is the most precious thing I have ever known.

I kiss her again and I say “Happy dreams Mommy” and I shut her door and start down the hall. Floyd, who is in his nineties is walking a bit ahead of me all dressed and looking rather spiffy. I can’t help but notice his eyebrows which he has drawn on with a blue ballpoint pen. He turns to me and says “Good Morning.” It is 10pm and he is on his way to breakfast.


  1. What a wonderful story. I can relate, as my mother and I are in the same situation. She often wears clothes and jewelry that belong to other residents, and no one seems to notice or mind. They are doing the same thing themselves.

  2. It is such a mix of emotions witnessing these things. It is best to keep our sense of humor about it all!
    Thanks for your comment Anthony. I know how you relate.