We heard that Sue's new room was larger and brighter. Instead of a semi-basement, where she lived before, she's now on the third floor and has two windows. She likes the food. She's glad that the other residents are geriatric because they're quieter than at her previous residence where she fought with a certain Pepsi (his name, not a derogatory term).
Between leaving the old residence and arriving at the new one, Sue managed--once again--to dispose of her sheets. The first message R got from the new residence was that Sue needed sheets. They would supply her with sheets in the meantime, but she was supposed to have come with her own bedding. Of course, Sue had sheets--how else did she sleep in her bed in the old residence--but she does this every couple of years: she throws away her sheets. She does it with curtains too. With a straight face, she claims that her curtains are gone. Gone where? Gone how? She has no idea. But she needs new curtains because people can see in her windows. Once she gave me a cushion she'd knit in orange and yellow wool. It was funky. I liked it. But it was lumpy. When I undid the seam to stuff it with a softer fiber, I discovered one of the curtains that had disappeared.
This week, now that I'm home again, R decided to drive to Quebec to see Sue's new place and buy her sheets.
The building looks like a cross between the set for a Victorian drama and a French one-star hotel--the kind with tepid showers in the hallway and tepid hot water radiators in the rooms. (Does hot water exist in France? Not if you're travelling on a budget.) Those of you familiar with church architecture will guess that the building used to be a presbytery. The church that originally accompanied it must have burned down, since the present church, off to the side, looks like a hockey arena.
The inside has renovated, freshly painted rooms with sinks; broad hallways to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers; oak floors; a dining room where the residents sit at tables with table cloths covered in plastic (pretty and practical); two lounges, one with cushioned rocking chairs and a TV, the other for getting communion and playing bingo. Dried flowers, statues, and crucifixes on the wall.
When R arrived on Mon afternoon, a priest was giving communion. R asked Sue if she'd been asked to join the group. She said she'd told them at the beginning that she wasn't interested in ces choses-là, and they hadn't asked her again.
Sue has lived in her room for less than a month, but it's already cluttered. Stuffed animals. Bottles of scented lotion. The little notebooks where she likes to write lists of numbers. Her bins for knitting and embroidery supplies. CDs of Elvis and Celine. Various shapes of hand mirrors. (I've tried to explain to her that you look the same in a round as in a square mirror, though maybe there's a fine point of perception here which I'm missing.). Cans of pop on the window ledge. A kettle. A box of tea. The Depression era mug that was her father's up until when he died at 94.
She's moved three times in the last year, and each time whichever brother has helped her to move tries to reduce the clutter, but it always returns. Sue's favourite shopping trips are to the dollar store for knickknacks. Always more knickknacks.
Of course, she has a TV too. This has become a sore point, because up until now, her necessities have always included cable. The new director in charge of Sue's allotment of money has recently decided that cable is no longer a necessity. Sue can watch TV with the other residents in the lounge downstairs.
Technically, if Sue were an animal, and one simply had to sit her in front of a TV while it was on, then yes, she could watch TV with the others. But the others watch French TV, and though Sue communicates almost entirely in French, she watches English soap operas. They're her greatest joy--to the extent that she doesn't like to visit us in Montreal because we don't have cable and she misses her programs.
R tries to juggle Sue's finances as well as he can. He now has to pay for her cable from the money he used to keep aside for emergencies--or would-be emergencies such as when she next throws away her sheets or her shoes or her winter coat so she can get a new one. Perhaps one blessing is that as Sue becomes more frail and less autonomous, she can no longer make outings and so won't expect pocket money.