"Son," Mother said. "I need to get some stuff. Some stuff for my hands."
I brought her to Little Rock for a doctor's appointment. By this point in time, communication with Mother was getting more difficult as the Parkinson's induced dementia was beginning to take its dreadful toll. It would not be long before she would be moved from assisted living to the nursing home. But on that day she needed stuff for her hands.
"What kind of stuff,Mom?" I asked. "Do your hands hurt?"
"No. My hands don't hurt. When I could drive I would go to the big store and buy the stuff I like for my hands. Oh God. I can't remember anything."
She made a big production of rubbing one hand over the other.
"You want some hand lotion?"
"Yes!" she exclaimed while pointing a tremulous finger at me. "And I want to go to the big store."
Big store. Hmmmmm. We were sitting in a doctor's office on the campus of St. Vincent's at the time. Big store. Wait. We had gotten off at the University exit. Maybe this had caused something in her neurons to fire. I took a shot.
"You want to go to the mall?"
"Yes. I want to go to the mall to buy the, the,"
"It's Okay Mom. We'll go to the mall on the way back to Conway. We'll buy the lotion for your hands."
And so we went to the mall. Once we entered she took my arm and we shuffled to a store that sells soaps and lotions.
"No. This is not where I buy it."
Since I didn't know where else to go, I asked her to lead us there. And eventually we came to another store down the way.
"Here," She said. This is where I buy the stuff for my hands."
And this is how I came to make my first, and so far only, visit to Victoria's Secret. To buy hand lotion for my Mother.
Suffice it say, Mother in her blue polyester pants, "Arkansas Songbirds" sweatshirt and SAS shoes didn't fit the profile of the typical VS customer. And indeed, the store was full of hot young women buying the usual ammunition that hot young women buy. But the hot young woman behind the counter where they sold the lotion and God knows what else could not have been kinder to this confused old lady and her greatly amused son.
Naturally, Mother couldn't remember what type of lotion she liked. HYWBTC asked her if she could maybe recognize the scent of her favorite brand.
"I think so," Mother said.
And so HYWBTC would place a dab of goop on her own hand or arm and let Mother smell. This went on for some time as HYWBTC patiently opened tube after tube of samplers. Eventually Mother eyes lit up. She had found the stuff for her hands.
HYWBTC opened a fresh tube. She took Mother's hands and rubbed a generous portion into her skin.
"There," she said when she had finished. "Now your hands will feel good and smell pretty."
"Thank you," Mother said as she brought her shaky right hand up to her nose.
She offered her hand to me.
"It smells great Mom," I said.
"I just love it," Mother said. She was grinning like a child.
I bought three boxes.
Mother has been gone a little over a year now. She was an unpretentious person of simple tastes. But somebody along the way had introduced her to hand lotion from Victoria's Secret of all places. It was as close to decadence as Donice Bowen was capable of.
I'm sorry that I didn't remember this story when we were planning the funeral. While I am not usually given over to superstition, I would have made sure that they didn't close the lid on Mom on until her hands had been anointed by the stuff she used to buy for herself at the big store back when she could drive.
Damn. I wish I had remembered.