6 April

At The Mansion: “I’m Going Home Today.”

by Jon Katz
At The Mansion: From The Mansion Art Project

There is a beautiful and quiet woman at the Mansion, I don’t care to give her name. I went to her room to visit with Red, and I noticed the walls were completely bare.

I was planning to bring in a painting to hang there.

I took her portrait with her permission,  but will not use it.

I noticed there was some art and a few photographs in a pile on the floor. I had a painting to bring for her wall.

A few days later I came into the Mansion and she was sitting on a sofa near the door, she had a small suitcase with her, and she seemed to be expecting someone, planning a trip.  She waved to me and Red, and said goodbye.

When I left that day, she was back in her room.

I came to  recognize this, I had seen it before, in some memory care facilities. Red and I have been doing dementia work for some time, you learn to listen and meet them where they are.

This very gentle women – I will call her S – was going somewhere.

“Where are  you going?,” I asked.

“I’m going home,” she said, my son is coming to get me. “Everything is all packed up, I’m all set,” she said, “I wonder if he is late.”

A staff member came up to us, and sat down. They both chatted for a couple of minutes about S and her home, S. said she enjoyed the Mansion so much, but her family wanted her at home, they insisted upon it.

Of course, said the staff member, “they must be very eager for you to come home. It looks like they’re a little late. Why don’t we go wait in your room, or go to the activity room and see your friends until they get here. They will be glad to see you also.”

S nodded.

The aide took S’s suitcase and the two of them walked back down the hall.

A few minutes the aide returned and smiled. “She waits every morning for her son to come,” but she has no family  that we know of. She has no visitors.”

The aide said that S always packs her things – including her wall hangings – and is ready to leave in the morning. She is aways ready to go. If you put something on the wall, the said, she will just pack it up.

They suggest doing something else while she waits, and she always agrees, then forgets about going home until the next morning.

The next time I visited, she was sitting in the same spot with her suitcase. “While you’re waiting,” I suggested, “let’s go for a walk with Red,” and she happily agreed. “They must be late,” she said, “my son is very busy.”  We walked around the side of the Mansion, there are beautiful places to walk there.

She told me all about her house, her cat, her garden, her kitchen. She had a lot of things she had to do there, she said.

I think home is something you never really forget or stop missing, no matter how much one loves where they are now. Home has so much meaning and some of the residents never really stop believing they will go back one day.

Memory sometimes fades, but not the idea of home. Home is not something you forget.

S believes she is going home every day.

We went onto the porch – it was warm in the sun – and then back into the Mansion and down the hall. S said she was going to read, and then take a nap. She gave Red a hug.

There is no reason to hang a painting on the wall.

6 April

Portrait, Sylvie

by Jon Katz
Serious About Letters

I saw Sylvie in the hallway of the Mansion today, she came over to say hello. She thanked me for her stack of letters, which she said was four or five inches high. She reads every one of them and keeps them by her bedside. Sylvia said she wants to come visit Bedlam Farm when it stops raining. I told her she is very welcome there.

I love taking Sylvie’s portrait, there is great depth and character in her face. you can write her c/o The Mansion 11 S. Union Street, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

6 April

Portrait, Jean. Cleaning, Cleaning

by Jon Katz
Every Day

Every day at 4:30, I can find Jean not in her room but in the Activity Room with an electric broom, carefully going over the carpets, vacuuming every bit of dust or dirt. This is not something Jean is required to do, it’s something she wants to do.

“I need to do it,” she said, stopping to pat Red and talk to him. She paused for a moment, and then told me she got some letters from different cities, and she thanked me and asked me to thank the people who are sending them.

She put her hand on her arm, and turned back to the vacuum cleaner, which she switched on and resumed her vacuuming. “I need to get back to work.”

I told her the room looked wonderful. You can write Jean c/o The Mansion, 11 S. Union Street, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. Easter is coming up, and your letters and presents are beginning to arrive. They are all being stories with Katie Perez, the Mansion Director, she is keeping them in her office.

6 April

At The Mansion, Connie and Red Head For Dinner

by Jon Katz
Heading For Dinner

At precisely 5 p.m., Connie connects her portable oxygen tank to her walk, sets the valve, makes sure it’s open, and uses her walker to get down the hallway to the dining room. Red saw her from the other end of the hall, and we walked with her. Walking is not simple for her, she has to stay connected to her tubes and oxygen source, her legs tire and she sometimes gets short of breath.

She said the first load of baby caps – she has made 50 – are going out to the Albany Medical Center tomorrow. She will get started on more. At dinner, it was quiet. People mostly ate in silence. You can write to Connie if you wish c/o The Mansion, 11 S. Union Street, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. No word today or yesterday about Christy, I think her computer is down.

The Mansion is keeping her room available if and when she  returns.

6 April

At The Mansion, Jane Asks “Is It Art?”

by Jon Katz
Is It Art?

Jane has been at the Mansion less than a week, she says the adjustment is difficult, but she is working at it. Jane is hard of hearing, but she reads lips well. She has thrown herself into the Mansion Art Show, the residents are working on their art with the wonderful tools you sent them.

Jane was nervous about showing me this drawing she did. ‘”Is it art?,” she asked me, “I don’t know if it’s art.” I told her it is art if she says it is art, and it sure looks like art to me. She is the one who gets to decide, I said, not other people. “Oh,” she said, smiling. “Thank you so much for saying that. I feel so much better.”

I think the art is important to Jane right now, she is proud of it. We all need encouragement, I said. The Mansion Art Show will be held at the end of the month. Some local artists are coming in to talk about art, including Maria.

Jane is at a crossroads in her life, she is making art. If you wish, you can write to Jane c/o The Mansion, 11 S. Union Street, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. I think she would love to know what you think of her art.

Email SignupEmail Signup