Monday, August 18, 2008

Memoir- Visits to the Land of Dementia - #1

Mary looks to be about 80 years old. She sits demurely in a corner wing-back chair. Her dark brown eyes peer at the other residents of the Memory Unit. She’s wearing her favorite yellow sweat suit.

I see that she’s fumbling with something in her hands and I kneel down beside her, to approach her on her level. She is playing with a green plastic ring, the kind you’d get inside of one of those little plastic globes from a gumball machine. She’s trying to get it on her ring finger—but it only fits her pinky and that’s not the right one.
“This isn’t the one I had. This one is too small.”

I realize that she’s missing her wedding & engagement rings. She must have worn them for over 50 years. Now they’re not on her familiar finger. Being new to the unit, I don’t know why or how long they’ve been gone. And she can’t tell me—she doesn’t remember. How many times do I play with and touch my own wedding & engagement rings, out of habit? It must be yet another empty gap in her life to not feel them on her finger.

I ask her if she was talking about her wedding rings, and show her mine to be sure that she gets the picture. As soon as she sees my rings she starts trying to get them off my finger.

“It’s mine—why do you have it?” she asks.
“No this is one is mine. My husband gave it to me. This one is mine.”
“I don’t care WHO gave it to you. It’s mine, take it off and give it to me.”

Her fierce yet feeble attempts to get my rings tear at my heart more than my fingers. Maybe her family removed the rings so that no one would steal them or they wouldn’t get lost. Or maybe they were already passed down the family, used to engage a new generation in marriage.

“I’ll try to find your ring for you.” I tell her. I disengage, getting her reinterested in the plastic ring for now. I want her to have a ring she can wear, that will feel like her wedding ring—but not mine!

by Terra

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