Recalling life's many adventures in memory care close to home

Bad behavior in Barbara Thompson’s house elicited a single raised eyebrow. No yelling, no pleading. A quiet, intent glare was enough to stop the offender.

“If you were told no, it was no. That was it. But if you heard yes, you knew where you stood,” said Barbara, a former Marine who now lives in a memory care studio at Heritage Homes in Watertown, Wis.

For Diana Fox, Barbara’s daughter, it’s important to have a place for Barbara to call home in Watertown, where Diana lives and works.

“I love her dearly. It’s just awesome being so close to her, and I never have to worry about her at Heritage Homes. I love having her here,” Diana said.

Memory loss can be a challenging experience for both the individual and their loved ones. Heritage Homes offers 18 memory care studios to provide a safe, comforting environment where those living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia can remain engaged with life.

With dementia beginning to take hold, it’s hard for Barbara to recall all the adventures she’s had — Barbara_prom.jpgincluding a stint with the circus. But her wicked sense of humor remains undiminished.

“We always cause a scene when we get together,” Diana said, adding with a smile that her mom is “bossy.”

Diana recalled that on Barbara’s first day driving a school bus — one of many jobs for the jack of all trades — a shoe hit her in the back of the head. She pulled to a stop on the side of the road, then turned to the older children and demanded they quiet the chaos or she would not be driving the bus
any further.

“I didn’t tolerate too much,” Barbara said. “But it was also fun in our house,” Diana said. Just the other day I was telling the ladies at my work about how when we were young, my mom used to spray PAM on the kitchen floor on purpose. It was like an indoor waterpark slide.”

Out of high school, Barbara spent four years in the Marines at Parris Island in South Carolina. Ask her what she did there, and she’ll tell you she raised hell. In fact, she planted gardens, sewed uniforms, performed clerical work, and cut hair.

“I think I had a good time down there,” Barbara said. “I enjoyed the fact that when I told somebody that I was a Marine, they’d go, ‘Yeah right.’”

For much of Barbara’s life, she worked as a beautician. She had three children: Daniel, Diana, and Cynthia.

“One for you, one for me, and a spare one,” she would tell her husband. Daniel lives in Milwaukee now, and Diana and Cynthia live in Watertown. When the kids were grown, Barbara and her husband traveled with the circus. Barbara sewed costumes for the animals and the performers. Affectionate elephants were the best part, Barbara said.

“I’d arrive in the morning and open the doors, and here would come an elephant’s trunk, wrapping around my neck and smelling my face. They each have their own odor and they’d blow a little puff in your face. That’s how they greet and recognize each other. It’s like shaking hands,” she said.

Barbara no longer has a sewing machine, but she does a little bit of hand sewing and other arts and crafts at Heritage Homes. Barbara also likes to paint and play solitaire. Her good friend Esther, who also lives in memory care, gives her a sounding board for her mischievous banter.

“Can’t you tease one of your friends and have a little fun doing it?” Barbara said.

TLHA is committed to providing a safe, comfortable, and engaging environment designed to meet the needs of those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Find out more about memory care options.