Care Bear

Not long after our December wedding, I acquired two heart-shaped metal pans, perfectly sized for use in baking a suitable Valentine’s cake for my Beloved. (Though we were relatively broke, I justified the purchase … the cost of a new card every Valentine’s Day over our lifetime together would add up, but these baking pans could be used over and over, every single year!)HeartCake

As the number of our shared Valentine’s Days now edges ever-closer to fifty, our focus swerves beyond the traditional declarations of heart-shaped love. Few store-bought cards and still fewer cakes have surfaced because the occasional hastily-written love poem or hand-drawn note represents a sweeter treasure.

When this year’s February 14th commemoration neared, we began thinking past the hearts-and-flowers norm. (My Beloved has multiple peeps who crave his attention!) Especially important, he contemplated a Valentine to honor his aging mother. One might rightly wonder:  what constitutes a memorable token for a nonagenarian who exists in the cloud of dementia? My Beloved pondered her enjoyment of a miniature Christmas bear she owns and decided to mark this Valentine’s Day (perhaps her last?) with the gift of an oversized teddy bear.

When he told me his choice, I can’t deny … I gave him that long, sideways look a wife sometimes gives when stunned by the actions and/or inscrutable decisions of the man she’s married. My analytical brain protested. What?! Your mother’s 93 years old, hardly the usual demographic for stuffed animals!

I’m a practical person. My mother-in-law’s assisted living apartment contains an abundance of miscellanea, items both necessary and superfluous. Yes, a large, cushy animal might be cute — for about twenty minutes! But then (from my perspective) the cute, cuddly bear becomes one more piece on a bothersome pile!

However, since dementia has taken hold, there are few pleasures available to this elderly woman. At one time, her arthritic fingers lovingly waltzed up and down the keyboard of the grand piano dominating her living room. Prior to her cataract surgery (a number of years ago), she told the surgeon her dearest ambition was regaining the ability to sight-read music so she could start playing the piano again.

But dementia has proven to be a stronger foe than diminished eyesight.

Though seemingly buried, I’m convinced the music is still there. I’ve watched from time to time — her fingers dance along a table or other flat surface as if involuntarily tapping out a melody. (Given my own lifelong love of music, I can’t imagine it being otherwise!)

Thankfully, my Beloved didn’t allow my verbal equivalent of a cold water bath to dampen his resolve … yep, he purchased that teddy bear, a puffy cotton-candy mass of white fur tied with a red bow and red satin hearts. When he gave it to her, he decided to capture her response in video.

In spite of disability, music compels expression. For my mother-in-law, her spoken words are not always intelligible. But as this video reflects, music permeates her being, flowing naturally from the deepest recesses of her soul.

Renée