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Martha's Story

Going to the Fair with Martha

Today is the day I plan to take Martha to the County Fair. Martha is in her 80s and suffers from Alzheimer's, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t enjoy life. She loves animals and anything that pertains to them. She will talk for hours about a pet she had as a child.

As is the case with any of us, she has her good days and bad days. I am praying today is a good day. I walk into her room and can tell that my prayer is not going to be answered. She is grumpy. I announce cheerfully, “Martha, we are going to the fair today!”

“Does my brother know? He will be mad if I don’t tell him.”

“We will be back before he knows you’re gone,” I respond.

Her confusion seems to be worse today, but I persist.

“I want to go home,” she demands.

After a new O2 canister, her afternoon meds, and a ride down the elevator we are on our way. I plop a hat on her head and announce that we are “Goin’ to the fair!”

That does it and she seems to forget her earlier concerns.

“Whoo whee! We are goin’ to the fair!” she exclaims.

I push her wheelchair down the hill to the fair grounds. Her excitement grows as the towering rides come into view.

“I want to ride the rides.”

I don’t think they allow wheelchairs on most of the rides, so I am hoping the animals distract her from them. I head right to the birthing barn, and all thoughts of riding the rides evaporate as she sees a little black lamb in the guide’s arms.

Her eyes light up and she reaches for the baby. The guide places the little lamb in her lap and her face softens as she coos to him. She obviously doesn’t want to ever let him go. I convince her that he needs his mother, so he can eat. Martha agrees that he should be with his mother and relinquishes him to his rightful owner.

Our next stop in the birthing barn is the pig with her squirming batch of piglets. Martha can’t see over the fence enclosing them, so I help her to her feet to look over the edge; her chair alarm goes off the whole time. The pigs are okay, but not as good as the lamb.

We turn around to the newly hatched chicks behind us. A kindly gentleman lets her stroke their soft down.

“This is all worth it just to see this,” she says as she admires the tiny ball of fluff.

It is on to the horse barn. Martha has talked often about how she loves horses. They are her favorite animals. She has told me many stories of childhood rides around her family summer cottage on the lake. We are disappointed that the stall walls are so high that she cannot see in easily. An exhibitor notices our dilemma and opens the stall door so Martha can pet her gentle 25-year-old horse. This is the highlight of our trip to the fair. She tells me it has been many years since she has touched a horse and she would give anything to ride one again.

We stroll through the rest of the fair grounds. She tells everyone who will listen—and even some who don’t (she doesn’t notice)—that she used to ride horses.

It is a hot August day and she would not change out of her sweatshirt before we left, so we make our way to the ice cream stand where I order her a “small” Moose Track ice cream dish. It is usually hard to get her to eat even part of her meals, but the ice cream is a special treat and she sits under a giant fiberglass cow and eats it all.

By now, we have been at the fair almost two hours. We have visited the exhibit building and looked at the quilts and vegetables. Martha is hot and tired so we start back.

When I get her back to her room, I tell her I won’t be back for a whole week.

She says, “Good, you tire me out.”

I took pictures of our day at the fair and put them in an album for her. Even though she won’t remember the fair tomorrow, she can relive it over and over in the photos. We look at the album often and talk about the fair and what she remembers about it as a girl growing up. Usually the horse picture gets her started on a lengthy discussion of her days riding horses around the lake.

Judy R.

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