“You’ve Just Crossed Over Into the Twilight Zone”

Cue Rod Serling. Cue the intro music everyone knows. Today I entered another dimension, with a completely surreal experience at my mom’s nursing home.

The first unusual aspect of the day: I made cookies. I only do this a couple of times a year, because I’m not all that domestic. However, last night was one of those times. My family at home ate most of them. But I took a couple in a sandwich bag for my mom, and then another small tin of them for the staff who would be working on Labor Day.

I decided to bypass the main door because I only had enough cookies for people down on my mom’s wing of the building. (It’s a big facility.) I entered instead through a door closer to her room. It opens into a small entry foyer, which then leads to a living room area with the nurses’ station, a large-screen TV, a piano, several recliners and a couple of end tables. That’s the usual set-up. Today, I came around the corner, ready to hand the cookie tin to whomever I saw at the nurses’ desk, and…there was no desk. No desk, no recliners, no tables, no piano, no nurses, no old people. Only an empty room.

What was this? My first thought went to movies, of all things. I recalled the movies and television shows I’d seen with plot-lines centered around an elaborate con, where the grifters set up a fake business. Inevitably, the conned person shows up at the office somewhere near the end of the movie, only to find it vacant. Surely nobody ever set up a fake nursing home. Right?

I looked around for clues. Oh hey, the flooring looked different. Where there used to be carpet I saw laminate. Aha! I proceeded down the hall to Mom’s room. She was there – whew! – and verified the residents had been told to stay out of the living room area while the new floor was laid. Then a nurse came in to put drops in my mom’s eyes. Good. Still in business, then. No taking the money and doing a runner.

Mom and I visited for over an hour. She was having a bit of a muddy day, cognitively. She’d start to reminisce about a family story, and then have to stop and get it straight in her mind how the person involved was related to her. This marked the first time I’ve seen this particular confusion. I mean, she calls me by my siblings’ names, but she always has. There are a lot of us and I’m the youngest. And really, I think she knew how the people were related, she just couldn’t conjure up the right word. She also asked me what those rolling things were called that people sit in and use to get around. “Wheelchairs, Mom.” Hmmm…Still, we managed to have a good chat.

When I got up to leave, I thought I’d have to track down a staff member somewhere to hand off the baked goods. I looked down the hall, expecting to see the empty room at the end. But instead, there was a nurses’ desk, with a nurse. And a room full of recliners, with old people sitting in them. The entire world changed while I was in with my mom.

“It can happen that way in the Twilight Zone.”

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