Even with her advanced dementia, it’s something we still like to do together. When the weather is good…when Mom is feeling good…when everything is Pretty Good, she and I like to take a walk and feed the ducks.
During this month’s trip to visit Mom in Kansas, I tucked her into the wheelchair, entrusted her with pieces of bread, and off we went. Down in the elevator, across the lobby, out the front door and into the sunshine. As we took our regular trail along the sidewalk, around the corner and down the hill, we oohed and aahed over the colorful flowers…and made quacking sounds to summon the ducks in the fenced-in pond beyond the back patio.
Mom had bread pieces ready in her lap when we arrived. “Quack, quack!” we said again, prepared to greet the ducks and toss them food when they waddled up to greet us. But none of them came to be fed.
Mom squinted and murmured, “Ducks?” I saw one huddled in the tall grass, but it wouldn’t come out. And then I saw the strewn feathers throughout the area, and my heart sank. As I learned later, a fox had killed them all except one duck, who now refused to come out of hiding.
O Magazine writer Lisa Kogan had this philosophical response for the days-when-things-really-go-wrong: “Even a bad haircut grows out.”
With that in mind, I told Mom we’d leave the bread on the grass for any ducks who got hungry later. I turned the wheelchair around and took the route that kept our backs to the feathers scattered around the pond. All the way back to the main doors at the entrance, I talked about happier things: the deer that followed me up the trail to my friend Helen’s house; the cute way Mom’s great-granddaughter Grace tried to help her brother Gannon on the climbing wall; the wild art that made an old metal chair so expensive. By the time we wheeled back into the main lobby, it was time to fix something special for dinner, and the sad surprise of the missing ducks had lost its punch.
Bad haircuts, absent ducks at a pond, or days when things go wrong ~ sometimes the best we can do is take a deep breath, focus on happier things, cross our fingers and hope that “this, too, shall pass.”