Last week my 88-year-old mother tried to eat my hand.
My mother's had Alzheimer's for 16 years; she's been in a nearby care home for the past six of them. Once a loquacious woman, she seldom speaks now, and her vocabulary has shrunk to a couple dozen words.
Lately she's been having trouble differentiating between what's edible and what's not. She'll be happily munching away on little bits of fresh fruit I'm spooning into her mouth. Then she'll take the corner of the terrycloth bib that's Velcro'd around her neck and wipe her lips with it. Once the edge of the bib is up against her mouth, she loses track of why it's there and she tries to gnaw on it.
I'm used to redirecting her to keep her from eating her terrycloth bib, or her sleeve, or the corner of the tablecloth. Thursday, however, she grew fascinated with my left hand, which I'd rested on the arm of her wheelchair while I was feeding her with my right.
She grabbed my arm and fumbled with it, then drew my left hand toward her face. She rubbed the back on my hand against her cheek. She seemed to be enjoying the sensation. Suddenly she opened her mouth, jammed my fingers into it and bit down.
I pulled away. "No, Patty, that's not food, that's my hand. You can't eat my hand."
She immediately let go and said in the sweetest, most apologetic tone, "Oh... I'm so sorry." My mother no longer has the wits to realize she can't eat my hand, but she still manages to round up the social graces to express regret for having tried.
How can I not love this woman with all my heart and soul?