When I was young, I remember struggling to fan the playing cards in my small hands when my mother taught me to play Crazy 8s. She’d wait patiently as I carefully scanned my cards, searching for one in the right suit to discard or, failing that, pick one from the deck on the table. Nothing gave me more pleasure than shouting “last card!” before discarding it on my next turn. I seemed to win a lot back then … the odds must have been in my favour.
Now my mother’s memory is fading … fast. Last Saturday, my two brothers and I moved her to the assisted living wing of her nursing home and the stress made things worse. Although we placed her clothing in the same drawers of her dresser as before (socks and underwear in top drawer; pyjamas in second drawer; sweaters and t-shirts in third drawer, etc.), she couldn’t find them. When I visited her on Tuesday, she was wearing the same clothes as on move day. She’d also been sleeping in them since there was no clothing or pyjamas in the hamper. (Each of my brothers visited her on the Sunday and Monday, but they were more attuned to what needed to be done in the apartment than to her wardrobe.) So we started a system whereby one of us calls her in the morning to direct her to clean clothing and one at night to remind her to put her PJs on.
Her eyes, ears and mobility are far from what they used to be too. And her morale, understandably, is not good. We are the only family she has left and the last of her friends passed away a few years ago. She spends long hours going through photo albums mourning the loss of the people who used to be in her life as well as her physical and cognitive abilities.
When I visited her for Mother’s Day I tried to distract her by suggesting we play Crazy 8s. Now it was my turn to wait patiently while she struggled to hold the cards in her gnarled fingers. “These cards are so slippery!” she said but we knew that wasn’t the problem. But the expression on her face as we played was priceless.
For the first time in a long time, she was interested in something! She was fully absorbed in the game, glancing at the upturned card on the table, and then scanning her hand for one in the same suit. When she had an 8, she gleefully laid it down, signaling a change in suit. Then she sat back in satisfaction, eyes on me, waiting to see what my next move would be.
I’ll admit, her eyesight being what it is, she sometimes confused spades with clubs or diamonds with hearts, and I just went with it. It seemed only fair that the odds finally be in her favour all these years later.