Linda Kulp Trout

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Promises We Make

Yesterday, like most Sunday mornings, I arrived at the nursing home around 9:00 AM.  Mom is sitting in her room strapped in her wheelchair trying to feed herself.  When she hears me come in, she looks up from her tray but doesn’t recognize me, at least not at first.  Food littered across her tray and down the front of her blouse is a sign she is getting weaker. I smile and tell her she looks good. I I can’t let myself think about what's happening to her—so I just keep smiling. I ask if she needs help with breakfast. She shakes her head. I pretend not to notice as she lifts her fork, but misses her mouth. Feeding herself is one of the few things she is still able to do.

The nurse comes in to check on her progress.  Mom introduces me as “a visitor.” The nurse smiles in recognition and takes the tray.   I ask her how she's doing.  She tells me about her physical therapy and how she is able to walk on her own now.  She doesn’t remember that the doctor gave up on physical therapy months ago.  She believes she’s getting better. She describes how she walks through the halls all night long while the others are sleeping. She believes she’s going home, and asks when I'll come to pick her up. I quickly change the subject and begin to update her on family news.

I see a little spark in her eyes as she finally remembers me. She if I'll bring her a cell phone the next time I come so she can call her friends.  I know I can't do that because the last time she had a phone, she kept calling 911 and reporting her roommate missing. Besides, the one her friend she had is gone now. But, I tell her I'll bring the phone.  I don't want to upset her.  “Do you promise you'll bring it?" she asks. I nod and change the subject to the weather.  She thinks it's July and thinks it's funny that I'm wearing a jacket. I tell her that all the air conditioning makes me cold. She laughs.

When it’s time for me to leave, she asks me to meet her at the church later for Friday Night Bingo. I smile and nod. I don’t tell her that it's Sunday. I don’t tell her that she cannot leave the nursing home-
ever.  I don't tell her that she is never going home. Instead I smile and nod when she asks, “Do you promise?” 

I take her hand, “Yes, Mom, I promise. “ An hour from now, she won’t remember our conversation, she won't even remember that I came to visit. But, for a little while she is laughing and making plans. I can’t take her away the hope that keeps her believing in tomorrow, so I make  promises I know I can’t keep, and I pray that forgives me.


  1. Linda, how difficult your visits must be, but even if only for the moment, your Mother is happy, that makes each visit a success. It is never easy watching our parents' minds and health fail. Cherish every moment with her. May God give you the strength and peace that you need each day.

  2. Judy, thank you for your kind words. It really does get hard sometimes. I can't imagine how horrible it must be to lose your memories. I try get there at least once a week, but it's quite a long drive so that makes it difficult too.

  3. Linda, reading your slice put a lump in my throat. The way you tell this story brings me right into the room with you and your mom. It can't be easy to keep smiling and promising, but you are doing it and it brings your mom joy. I hope you take time and good care of yourself. It's tough to be strong for others.

  4. My grandmother lived with Alzheimer's for 14 years, and my grandfather experienced dementia in the end, so this is familiar writing...too familiar. You write with bravery and clarity about a wrenching experience; I admire your honesty. What you've written has a unique kind of beauty.

    I would also say that any promises offered with such tenderness are kept simply by the bond of love that lives in them.

    Thanks, Linda. I was very moved by this.