Some people choose a nursing home facility based on the quality of care, while my mom's choice was based on the quality of snacks. This was my mom's third stint in rehab after her five day hospital stay. Her last visit was about two years ago, so we knew the schedule by heart. The old fashioned ice-cream parlor was open every day until 4:00, and on Friday afternoons they served pizza, and had live music. All of the activities took place in their Main Street area which was located next to the beauty shop.
Last Friday, I stopped off at my mom's room to drop off her laundry before I met her at the beauty parlor. I noticed her roommate was just sitting there looking at the wall, so I asked if she'd like to go listen to the music downstairs. She was eager to leave, but was worried that her husband wouldn't be able to find her. I wheeled her over to the front desk and left word where we were going. Then I checked with her nurse to see if she had any dietary restrictions. After we got the okay, we ran into my mom's dear friends. I invited them to join us on the elevator, so they could surprise my mom. I felt like Dorothy leading her friends down the yellow brick road.
As I escorted the couple inside the beauty shop, I set my mom's roommate near a table, so she could listen to the music. Then I told her I'd be back in a minute to get her something to eat. She decided to also have her hair done in the beauty shop, so I brought her inside with us. She politely offered to wait until the beautician was available.
Though they had shared a room for three weeks, this was the longest conversation her roommate, and I ever had. It may have been the very first time she and my mom had actually spoken to each other. Their room was separated by a tall cabinet and curtain. Since they were both in wheelchairs, their paths only crossed on the way to the bathroom, or coming or going from the room. My mom was in charge of the windows and the air conditioning, while her roommate was in charge of blasting her TV loud enough, so my mom never had to turn on the volume on her set.
As my mom was busy socializing with our close family friends in the beauty shop, my first job was to keep the snacks coming. I brought in slices of pizza and a root beer float for the happy couple to share. My second job was to translate over the noise from the blow dryer, and background music. Meanwhile, her roommate was pleasantly perched on the opposite end of the room.
Suddenly, the mood changed as the hairdresser started whispering to the manicurist. When I asked what was wrong, she pointed to the oxygen tank on the back of the roommate's wheelchair. I didn't think it was a problem, because it wasn't in use. Then both the beautician and the manicurist explained how oxygen tanks and blow dryers do not mix.
After I apologized and offered to remove her from the beauty shop, she asked if my mom would mind taking a break, so she could quickly comb her roommate's hair before we all blew up. I distracted my mom with another slice of pizza, while she worked her magic, and then I whisked her roommate back up to the room. All the while, she couldn't stop thanking me for transporting her to and from the beauty shop. She kindly added, "Your mom is adorable, and she's way too young to have you for a daughter."
Fortunately, everyone made it out of the beauty shop alive. Then I noticed my mom's bangs were in her eyes, and asked why she didn't have the hairdresser trim them. She replied, "Do you think I could trust her to cut one hair on my head?"
My mom asked me to bring her a pair of scissors, but I thought it would be better if she waited a week to go to her favorite beautician close to home. A few days later, I noticed there was something different about my mom. Then it hit me. When I brought her caregiver for a visit, she must have slipped her some contraband scissors, so she could trim her own bangs. I told Mom she would be an ideal prison inmate, and without missing a beat she quipped, "Well, I do look good in orange."