Saturday, August 1, 2009

touring and walking

I took Mom for a spin, visiting a local park and several local schools, all of which seem empty thanks to summer vacation. What's notable today is that I asked Mom whether she felt that we could do this without the wheelchair, and she said yes. So we walked carefully out to the car, Mom and I, braving the nasty heat and humidity, getting into the car, then rolling down the windows and cranking up the air conditioner to blow out all that hot air. We drove for a while with the windows down until Mom decided that her side was too windy. She closed her window, and out of solidarity, I closed mine.

Our drive took us past Woodley Hills, the local elementary school my brothers attended (I went to Mount Vernon Woods Elementary, across Route 1). I asked Mom whether she remembered which of us attended Woodley Hills; either she didn't remember, or she wasn't inclined to answer. I took us slowly through the school's front parking lot, giving Mom a chance to take the school in. Then we sped up and drove past Mount Vernon, the estate of George Washington, and the spot where the George Washington Parkway begins.

Readers who have been reading this blog since last year know that Fort Hunt Park lies at about Mile 2.75 along the parkway. I drove us to the park, and we cruised slowly around the mile-long circle drive that encompasses most of the park. I had thought about getting Mom out of the car and letting her walk around there a bit, but decided against it. The park was crowded, and I had wanted Mom to enjoy a bit of shade and silence.

We drove back toward home, but took a detour and swung by my old alma mater, Mount Vernon High School. Our loop around the school's exterior proved unenlightening; the school looks pretty much the same as it did when I was a student there from 1983 to 1987. One of these days, I might take a stroll through the school's hallowed halls. A while ago, I was told that MVHS now has the worst discipline problems in Fairfax County in terms of the number/frequency of suspensions. That's pretty sad. I could rant at length about American education and what needs to be done, but this blog is no longer the place for that.

We wended our way back home. Instead of taking Mom straight inside, I decided to walk her around the back yard. For the most part, I allowed her to stop wherever she wanted, but eventually it became obvious that Mom would, if left to her devices, stop every few paces and fondle the petals of this or that flower. She plucked two sets of blooms off one of our bushes, and I gently pulled her away from the bush. The point was to get Mom moving again, not to allow her to stand in one place for a long time. With Mom up and about thanks to the Decadron, she needs to exercise as much as possible.

The walk back up the deck and to our back door went fairly well, but it was obvious that Mom's legs would have been too weak to use the deck stairs. Instead, we went up the wheelchair ramp, which meant mounting only two steps, followed by an incline. I brought Mom in, got her to exchange her shoes for her slippers (thanks again, Mrs. Kopf), and managed to get her seated in her usual spot in the living room. I took Mom's flowers and placed them in a tiny, elegant vase given to us by my former French teacher, Mrs. Landgrabe; the flowers fit perfectly, and the vase now sits at our living room's bay window.

We've been wanting to get Mom to move around more, and today was the first day of real movement for her ever since she restarted the Decadron. We hope we'll be able to do this again with increasing frequency.

Today's outing began with me helping Mom up off the couch. Every time my mother succeeds at standing up, I give her a big hug. Her answering smile suggests amusement, as if she were aware that I was being patronizing, congratulating her for doing something that's ordinary for most people. But that's what I live for: my mother's smile. I'll take as many of those as I can get.


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