Archive for April, 2010

Adventias: Wonderful willow waterhole!

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

I spend time with my Gran’mom most every week. Often as I’m driving home from visiting her, I think of writing about some aspect of our visit, but I apparently get over it before I get home. I’m amazed that I haven’t written about Sarah since last June. My relatively low level of stress about her care is clearly a result of the great job they’re doing at Belmont Village!

With Sarah finally settled in and relatively comfortable in her new environs (it’s been 16 months), there’s been a lot less drama. Mostly she’s just eager for company and social interaction with people who don’t feel like strangers (i.e. family), which has allowed our visits to become quite mundane. If I show up with a box of Twinings decaffeinated Earl Grey tea and a bag of chocolate chip (or oatmeal raisin) cookies, she’s happy. If I stay and join her for lunch or dinner, she’s delighted. If I bring her drycleaning, sort her laundry, or hang a photo, she’s ecstatic.

But these mundane visits aren’t especially memorable. One Friday afternoon, she called me, said she’d been trying to get a hold of me for “weeks,” and asked if she was ever going to see me again. I reminded her gently that we’d spent the previous afternoon together and shared a pot of tea, which she admitted she remembered after I reminded her. But clearly the event wasn’t novel enough to trump her pervasive sense of isolation.

Since then, I’ve been making an effort to make my visits more memorable. Instead of lunching in the dining room, I’ve started bringing turkey sandwiches for us to take outside and eat in Belmont’s back yard. Between the birds, the big oak tree, and the traffic in the shopping center next door, there’s plenty to observe and she really enjoys it. (I’ve hoped that she’d find her way out there between my visits, but the route to the back yard has remained elusive for her.)

I imagine that Sarah would have enjoyed the back yard again today, but I decided to change the scenery for my own sake. We took our sandwiches down to Brays Bayou and hunted some bluebonnets:

Brays bayou
Brays bayou and bike trail

Sarah and Bob picnicing

Braeswood bluebonnets
More bluebonnets on South Braeswood

Sarah with bluebonnets
Sarah with bluebonnets

Sarah tells me she’s never seen bluebonnets before. While many of Sarah’s “never” assertions really reflect missing memories, this one may be true. She’s only lived in Texas for ten years, bluebonnets are a short-lived prairie flower, and Sarah lived on the coast. Regardless, she really enjoyed how intensely blue the flowers are, and how striking a vast carpet of bluebonnets appears.

After the bluebonnets, we sought out the new Willow Waterhole. This clever flood control project is designed to create both natural habitat and recreational green space in the city while reducing flood risk for property owners. I know civic leaders who have worked on this project for years, but until my friend Susan reminded me, I didn’t realize any of it was finished. The final detention areas and park enhancements won’t be finished until 2015, but the first two ponds are open and lovely. Sarah and I sat in the quiet and enjoyed a little birdwatching:

Willow Waterhole
Willow Waterhole

Egret on the far shore, beyond the reach of my lens

For the last 50 years, both in Florida and Galveston, Sarah always had access to lakes and wetlands and natural bird habitat. Judging by how raptly she observes the doves and grackles outside her bedroom window, I imagine she misses that, even when she doesn’t consciously remember it. I hope that visiting Willow Waterhole will help.

After two hours out in the 80-degree heat, Sarah said, “I hate to go but I’m just physically exhausted.” But she agreed that it’s a lovely quiet spot for birdwatching, and expressed interest in bringing our sandwiches here again. And I trust that our afternoon will be memorable, at least for a little while.