New Winslow S7E20
Cleo’s mother had moved into Oakmont Residencies’ memory care program in Watertown the day before. Once Cleo helped her move her things in, she’d wanted to give her the rest of the day to settle in and spend some time there on her own. It was going to be a difficult transition, Cleo knew that. No matter how much her mother agreed that this was the best option, or how much of a relief it was for all three of them, it was still an enormous change for a woman who did not do well with change. Or with having other people around her.
They’d been lucky to have a suite open up. It was a bit more expensive than the rooms, of course, but it gave her more privacy than she’d have anywhere else in the facility. She had a small living room, her own bathroom, and a bedroom. All furnished and with all meals and regular medical needs provided. She could even have the meals brought to her instead of eating communally, something that her father had been thrilled to hear. Cleo wasn’t positive, but she thought that might have been one of the deciding factors for her mother as well.
Now she was walking into the peaceful building to go see how last night had gone. As she walked through the automatic doors, a woman at the front desk smiled and said hello, giving Cleo the sign-in sheet. She knew her mom was on the second floor, but got turned around a couple times as made her way down the endless carpeted hallways. Finally she got to the right room, knocked, and waited.
Her mom didn’t answer. Again, Cleo knocked. “Mom?” she called through the solid, undecorated door, unease beginning to pool in her stomach.
It had been one night, but a lot could go wrong in one night. Resisting the urge to pound on the door, Cleo gave her mother a moment. Finally, the door opened and a young woman, maybe twenty-two, peered at her. “Hi,” Cleo said. “I’m Naomi’s daughter? She knows I’m coming.”
At least, she had known that morning when Cleo called to confirm it with her. But her dementia had been progressing so rapidly over the past year that it was entirely possible that her mother didn’t even know Cleo existed at the moment. Which hurt so badly that she had to set it aside to deal with later.
The woman brightened. “Right!” she said. “Of course. Sorry, I’m Paula, I’m one of the aides here. I was just clearing her breakfast dishes, and she asked me to get the door for her.”
That was encouraging. She’d seen all good things about the staff here, but the fact that this smiling woman had been helping her mother this morning was another point in favor of this decision.
“Naomi,” Paula said, leading Cleo through the living room toward the couch, where her mother was watching a movie on TV. “Your daughter’s here.”
“She’s supposed to be at school,” her mother said.
“Hi Mom,” Cleo said, ignoring that.
Her mom turned to look at her, then smiled. “Cleo,” she said softly.
Cleo didn’t actually expect her to get up and hug her or anything like that. Instead, she sat down at the other end of the couch while her mom muted the TV. “How was your first night?” Cleo asked.
“Quiet,” her mom said. “It was…very nice.”
“You slept well?”
It looked like a hotel room. She’d have to go through her mom’s belongings, which were currently split between her father’s new apartment and Mrs. Stevenson’s house. “Where’s Carlos?” her mom asked.
“He’s at work,” Cleo said. “He’ll be here later.”
“We’re going out tonight. Do you want to come?”
That probably wasn’t true. “Sure,” Cleo said, playing along.
“Or you can stay with Krissy if you want.”
Krissy Stevenson was currently living in Colorado with her three children. But of course Cleo wasn’t going to say that. Her mom looked happy here as she tugged her blanket down over her shoulders, then looked around the living room with a smile.
There were still a few things left to do with the mobile home later today, and Cleo and her father were going to have to continuously figure out how they were going to pay the remaining costs for this place after her insurance covered their share. But this was exactly the type of place where her mother both wanted and needed to be, so Cleo could finally exhale.
This might be Cleo’s last time in New Winslow. As she was driving into the mobile home park, the thought occurred to her. Today was the final day to wrap everything up here. Noah was home safe, so that was resolved. And there really wasn’t anything else to bring her here. Not even her friends, who had made it pretty clear that they didn’t need her to be in town in order to stay one of them. And with how stressed Edie had been this morning about her coming, despite knowing she had to be here as one of her mother’s legal caretakers, she didn’t want to keep putting them through that.
Even if they were the one who had told her she should come back when Andrew was stuck, that same little resentful voice said at the back of her brain. Cleo tried to shake it away. That thought was poison, it always was. Resentment killed relationships. She wasn’t a relationship expert, not by a long shot. But those kinds of ideas were going to wreck something good if she didn’t get a grip.
Things would be better there too, once she was done. And then they were moving to Boston too. She’d find a new job, someone was bound to call her back, eventually. And then she could focus on her music, finish the album, hope she hadn’t blown her viral success too badly, and join The Blossom Step next time they went on tour. Which was going to be soon, she knew. They were touring machines. Maybe next year they’d want to go back to Europe and she could experience that knowing that her mother was safe.
And hopefully Andrew would be out of New Winslow. They had to have a solution by then. And now that she didn’t have to worry about her mom all the time, she could maybe even help. From a distance, of course.
It was strange to go through this familiar park with these thoughts in mind. Her mother hadn’t lived here that long, but Cleo had been over enough that she had everything burned into her memory. There were the fake flowers in the whiskey barrels that had belonged to Minnie Jensen. The new owners must have either loved them or hadn’t bothered to get rid of them because they were still beaming from their little yard. There was the spot where Noah’s truck had screeched to a halt and she’d seen him for the first time since he left for rehab. And there was where he’d pulled up with her mother safely beside him in the passenger seat. And even ordinary things, like how she would see Roman’s truck outside of Mrs. Jensen’s home, or the children playing in one of the yards on the next street over.
Her father’s sleek car pulled up outside the house seconds after she did. Cleo saw him get out, a small man in a nice coat, more gray than black in his hair these days. He looked at the mobile home, hands buried in his pockets as he stood in front of it. Then he turned and smiled as Cleo came over.
“This is it,” he said in greeting. “I’m going to drop off the keys with the agent after this.”
Good. The finality was exactly what she needed right now. “I stopped by to see Mom this morning,” Cleo said.
“How was she?”
“Good,” she said honestly. “It’s a good fit for her. I know she’s only been there one night, but she seemed happy. Even with someone in her room when I got there.”
“Naomi was okay with that?”
The gentle skepticism made her laugh. “A very nice girl getting her breakfast dishes,” she said.
“How about that?”
“How’s your place?”
“Fine,” he said. “I’m busy enough that I won’t be there much.”
She didn’t want to worry about him either. And he clearly noticed as he looked at her. “I’m fine,” he said. “I’m just consulting on a major project, it’ll finish up in a few months.”
And then what? But he was able to make his own decisions, so she didn’t argue as she followed him in the front door.
About forty minutes later, they were completely done with everything that needed to be wrapped up with her mother’s house. There wasn’t much. Her mother had a couple boxes left in a closet, but most of her belongings were already taken care of. And she’d lived there for such a short time, it was nothing like when she’d been moving out of the original house.
Still, the sharp emotions hit Cleo as she walked out, watching her dad lock up behind them. “I’ll see you soon?” she asked before she’d thought about it.
But instead of bolting or getting awkward, he nodded. “It’s nice to be near you again, Cleo,” he said.
“Same,” she replied, wishing she had something a little more eloquent to give.
She hugged him and he barely flinched before hugging her back. Then he was in his car and she was heading to hers, leaving New Winslow for what she figured would be the last time.