Mom wears her watch every day. It’s a part of getting dressed, essential to a complete outfit. And she looks at it frequently to remind herself where she is in the day. Recently I realized that her watch battery was going bad. She was an hour or more “off” each day. We would adjust the time, and it would be incorrect again the next evening. I’m sure I could buy a new battery at Wal Mart or Target, but honestly the simple task of removing the watch cover seemed daunting during this busy season. So I decided that we would go to the local jewelry store to buy a new watch battery. I knew they would remove the back of her watch, replace the battery for us, and have it all working within minutes with a friendly smile to share, too.
Sigh. But they close by 6:00 p.m. each day. I work into the evening three days each week. It took about 10 days for me to finally find a time to take mom by the jewelry store. Yesterday, we went. We walked in and mom, as she would have years ago, marveled at the beautiful diamonds and pearls. But what surprised me was when the woman behind the counter exclaimed, “Cheryl! You came to see me instead of me coming to see you!”
Now, of course, mom had no idea who the woman was. But in her usual social manner, Mom played along and said how nice it was to see her too. For a while, the woman did not look at me nor speak to me. She engaged mom in warm, friendly conversation. She was clearly “leading” each topic and making it easy for mom to respond. I’ve lived here 17 years. I didn’t know this person, but mom was enjoying talking with her as if they were old friends.
Eventually, when they ran out of things to talk about, the woman turned to me and said, “My mother lives at the Alpha House also. I go by each day around 5:00 p.m. and I always look forward to visiting with Cheryl.” Wow. I either go by the assisted living home on my lunch break or later in the evening. So we don’t cross paths.
They didn’t have her watch battery in stock. We paid for a special order, and as we completed the paperwork, the woman offered, “I can just take it with me when it comes in and put it in your mom’s watch while we visit next week.”
It’s funny, I almost started to cry. I thought that after dementia came to stay, a person would not have the ability to form new friendships. It’s not true. This woman is mom’s friend. Friendships when one person has dementia may rely more on the person without dementia to initiate the conversation, sure, that’s true. But the connection, the smiles and laughter, the willingness to go out of one’s way for the other… it was real.
Relationships don’t end when dementia comes. New friendships form. But those of us who don’t have the disease need to be the ones to take initiative, to build the bridges, to open the door. It’s interesting to think about, that someday I may enjoy a friendship with someone whom I won’t remember when they walk out the door. And yet, I’m already thankful for them, thankful that they will care about me. I can pray for them now, while I’m still able. And I can be that person for someone else.
Friendships keep all of us ticking. How neat to discover mom’s new friendship during the search for a watch battery!