We took advantage of the proximity in Arizona from Scottsdale to Chandler to visit with Aunt Senta Seligmann today, who has a room in the Sunrise Senior Living Community. Sunrise promotes that it has a special neighborhood for the memory impaired, and Senta certainly qualifies.
We stopped to pick up some fruit, fresh flowers, and a birthday balloon for Senta. It is going to be her 89th birthday next week, and we mentioned that we would look forward to coming back next Fall to help her celebrate her big one. Senta knew that she was born in 1925, but couldn’t figure out how old she’d be next year.
Aunt Senta is succumbing to Alzeheimer’s Disease, and its effects on her are quite apparent but not without some striking paradoxes. She recognized me, but not by name. She told Miriam that she recognized me before she did her. Was my mustache a distinguishing feature? She couldn’t grasp where her husband was, and was confused about the circumstances of her being at Sunrise. We took Senta to a local place down the road to celebrate her birthday. When Miriam ordered a Raspberry Martini, and I ordered a Lemon Drop, Senta ordered a Martini straight up.
Miriam and I tried to discourage her, figuring she may have some medication that might not be a good combination with vodka, but it was Senta’s celebration and she was laser sharp in her focus at the moment. We made a point of having her drink water, sliding the martini glass away, and discussed watering it down. Diluted memories were one thing, but Senta would not be deterred from having her celebratory drink today. After her first sip I took her glass and poured most of it into mine, suggesting that it would be easier for her to drink it now. “I wasn’t born yesterday you know” she replied.
As we exited the establishment, pausing for a photo, Senta observed that she felt a little drunk which was odd because she hadn’t had anything to drink. As with our visit last year, Senta will have no memory that we visited with her. The birthday balloon and flowers in her room will be tangible evidence that we were there, but Senta will not remember who brought them. To the staff at Sunrise she referred to us as her cousins, the generational relationships confusing to her. At some level though we know that she truly appreciated our visit. In the final analysis that’s all that really matters.