The Pedicure

Source of photo: Sencura

“I need new shoes” my Mom informs me one day over the phone. “The ones I have now are hurting me.”

“This might be a strange question, Mom,” I reply, “But is it possible that your toenails are a bit long right now?”

Clearly surprised at my apparent psychic abilities, Mom answers that yes, they are indeed quite long.

I had noticed them the last time I was there but only on a very superficial level. Mom has always been a very proud, fastidious woman, and the length of her toenails had surprised me a little. It’s not the sort of detail she ever would have missed, in the past. But at the time, I missed the bigger signal regarding what the length of her nails meant.

With this now firmly on my radar, I give my sister a call. To my consternation, my sister admits that Mom’s nails – both her hands and her feet – have needed to be clipped for awhile but she has been too scared to do them herself. Anyone with a parent in care knows that seniors’ care homes are perilously understaffed. In Canada, the for-profit homes only hire the strict minimum of health-care workers required to meet government ratios. Mom is still pretty cognisant and fairly independent. As wonderful as the health-care staff are with their patients – Mom adores them – her nails are not exactly a priority.

When I come for my next visit, my sister drops another bombshell. Ever conscious of the things that can be a danger for a senior with mild dementia, my sister recently gave Mom a new nail file with no sharp edges. “But Patti”, she tells me worriedly, “She doesn’t seem to remember how to use it.” Our eyes – filled with concern and sorrow – meet for a long moment.

“Oh……..” is all I manage to say.

And just like that, I have added ‘manicurist and ‘pedicurist’ to the growing list of skills I have been learning since I retired. Next time I come to visit Mom, I am pleased to learn that she has just had her bath, so her nails are nicely softened.

I am very, very nervous: as much as our Mom is a true girly girl, loving days at the spa and all things fluffy and feminine, both her daughters are the type to wear jeans and hoodies and neither of us has ever had a manicure. I have had one pedicure, and it was a nice experience, I guess, but I nonetheless decided I was fine keeping my money and doing it myself – with clippers and never (ever!!!) with nail polish.

I start slowly, asking Mom every few moments if everything is ‘okay’; if she is comfortable: if I am in any way hurting her.

“No, sweetheart, you’re doing fine.” she answers. “But of course, you would be: you’ve had lots of practice at this, haven’t you?”

I look up at her in confusion as she smiles softly. “You would have done this all the time for the kids, when they were babies, right?”

Oh, yes! The kids! My babies… I smile back at her and relax for the first time. I’d completely forgotten: I have done this before, probably hundreds of times, “I used to wait until they were asleep.” I smile, as I remember those warm, limp little bodies in my arms.

I finish her toenails and after Mom is dressed, we go for a walk in the building. We find a nice spot to sit and watch the passersby in the big front hall, and we sit there for a few hours, chatting and reminiscing. At one point, as we talk, I take Mom’s soft, soft hands in mine and gently give her a manicure, too.

As we walk slowly back to the dining room at the end of the afternoon, Mom holds up a hand to admire her new manicure. “This looks so nice, honey.” she tells me, “Maybe later, could you do my feet, too?”

I start to tell her I already did and then I smile, gently touch her arm and say, “I’d love to, Mom.”

Next time, I’ll bring nail polish.

Patti Moore Wilson/©




Author: Patti Moore Wilson, wednesdayschild2

I write what I feel. And I rarely know exactly what I feel until I write. I have lived long enough to have known many joys and many sorrows. I have made many mistakes; I have forgiven myself for a few… I have learned that there are lessons in every step of this journey, if we only take the time to pay attention… I hope you will feel free to pick and choose the stories that resonate for you…

22 thoughts on “The Pedicure”

  1. This is, only, the start of, a long list of what our aging parents diagnosed dementia, will, slowly, lose, and, there’s, nothing we can do, to change that, but just, taking care of them, best as we all, can…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This brought back memories of my mother in her 80s. Her toenails had become so long, they curled around her toes like parrots’ beaks. She refused to let me cut them, and could not manage to do them herself. I finally paid for her to go to a local chiropodist, after much argument.
    After it was done, I asked her how she felt. She replied grumpily, “No different really, he hurt me a bit, and it wasn’t worth the money”.
    Many thanks for following my blog, which is much appreciated.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

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