"I took a man dancing," she told me with a smile the other day, gesturing at the wall. I look around to see the picture my 98 year old mother has colored, now displayed under some photos of her as a child. Two figures are frozen in a classic ballroom dance stance. The man is colored with red and the woman in yellow. Around them, the few simple objects are painted also.
How lovely a thought for her to hold, she who no long can walk, she whose husband died many years ago, she who only leaves the institution on Sundays when the bus takes her to church.
On the windowsill of her room near the picture sits a stuffed lovesick cow wearing two strands of diamonds and bright red lipstick. At my mother's request I press the button on its hoof. The cow sways as it croons Bésame Mucho" (Kiss me a lot) in a tremulous voice, its bottom jaw quivering as it sustains the first syllable of "Moo-cho."
When she meets you, my mother shakes your hand and then tells you its temperature with a big grin. "Oh, your hand is so hot," she says, exaggerating the last word and bringing apologies or a quip about a cold heart from you.
Sometimes she is enraptured in music, sometimes in the middle of the rapture, she falls plum asleep.