Posts Tagged ‘old age’

Old age ain’t no place for sissies. (Bette Davis)

My 94-year-old mother-in-law sleeps on a narrow couch. She looks as uncomfortable there as she does inside her fragile body. She smiles and seems emotionally touched by the gentle stories I tell her about her grandson and great-grandchildren. But, I suspect she would agree with Bette. I have enough tact, however, not to discuss the obvious.

While my mother-in-law rests I elevate and ice an amazingly painful foot. I injured it the first day we arrived. This isn’t the out-of-town weekend I had in mind.

At the same time I sit with my youngest granddaughter, Ella, on the back porch of my brother-and-sister-in-laws’ house. Ella watches Peppa Pig on my iPad as I watch my ten-year-old granddaughter learn the art of hooking a bass with a lure. Ella and I are at the top of several rolling hills so I can’t see Kate’s face, but I know she has wanted to do this for a long time.

The action on the porch is different, subtle. Several ruby-throated hummingbirds flit close by. Then other species of hummingbirds appear—long enough for me to see their color, nothing more. A striped lizard makes an appearance. The next heat wave hasn’t passed through yet. The shade brings amazing comfort.

I think about my mother-in-law sleeping inside. My limitation, even though this one seems temporary, reminds me to celebrate what I can do—not what stops me. Sure, I can’t trek through the woods right now, but someone needs to stay with our youngest granddaughter. A four-year-old could create a hazard among swinging hooks. And who would have volunteered to be a companion to our littlest one, even if she didn’t have a foot the color of bad sunburn? Uh, Grandma?

Ella points to the screen as Papa Pig dives into the water without making a splash. She grins. Perhaps she realizes the absurdity of diving anywhere without making an impact of some kind. Ella already knows life isn’t easy. She approaches Down syndrome with an up attitude.

I study the striated skin on my arms. The challenges of aging occur slowly. I have no idea how many losses it will ask of me. But I’m not living in tomorrow. Today a blonde beauty smiles at me with a love of life that’s contagious. She doesn’t count wrinkles; she looks straight into the heart.

I chose to spend time with Kate shortly after she was born because my mother-in-law had bonded with my children. She showed me how much that connection is worth. Nothing less than priceless. That lesson isn’t lost because my mother-in-law is now in the winter of her life.

Here’s to the older folk of the world. We’re all headed that way. Eventually.

enjoy little things words of wisdom


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May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the
foresight to know where you’re going, and the insight to know
when you’re going too far. (Irish Blessing)

 I like to create meals, not throw a piece of baked chicken and microwaved potato on a paper plate and call it dinner. Nothing wrong with that. Sustenance is sustenance. However, in everyday life I prefer adding the attitude of gifting to my daily preparation: a color, a spice, or a hidden nutrient.

On those rare instances when my husband is out of town or has other plans for the evening, my spark fizzles. I have no interest in planning a surprise party for myself, no one else invited.

Sure I could “should” all over myself about how eating well is not pampering. But, it’s like going to the movies alone—no one to share the story with after the show.

In time either Jay or I will be alone; it’s inevitable since invincible isn’t part of the human condition. I’m meeting with a friend this week who knows that experience. Living alone. Grief. Cooking for one. Recalling the past. Walking into the future one baby step at a time.

So, I decided to share—soup, for me, for my friend. Besides, a pot holds as much liquid as I am willing to give it. And, I can save a portion for my granddaughter Ella.  She loves my homemade chicken soup. She absorbs it: through her pores, into her hair, over her shirt, spilled onto the floor. Soup Ella-style is more than a meal. It is an experience.

For this pot I will add all the usual ingredients: water, Amish bouillon, garlic, onion, pepper, and simmer it in the Crockpot for hours. I will also add prayer and good wishes, a willingness to accept the present as it is, leave the past to itself, and embrace the future. I have regrets. Don’t we all? But living there doesn’t change anything.

Each batch of soup tastes slightly different. I don’t use a recipe. But then life doesn’t follow rules in any exact order either.

For all, may this day bring unexpected blessings, and blend them with both the rare and precious.

for you

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Until death it is all life. (Don Quixote)

My father sleeps the awkward sleep of pain and old age. I kiss him on the forehead and he doesn’t respond. I hope he wakes up later, and sit next to him in the common room of the nursing home. My sister Claire will be here soon, after the accident clears on the expressway. She drives an hour—perhaps to visit the father she knew—perhaps to visit a shell of what he was.

I wait, pulling a folder of writing work into my lap, when a woman in a wheelchair catches my eye. She looks upset.

“There’s something in the back of this chair.”

I hesitate, and then notice her oxygen tubing. It’s probably the handle from the tank.

It is. One hand on her arm, I move the handle out of the way. “Is that better?”

“I don’t know.”

An aide appears with a blanket to tuck behind her. When my dad could still sit, I always wondered why one wasn’t inserted before this kind of irritation started. Then he was moved to a geri-chair that could be adjusted for lying down. No handle in the back, just the difficulties of a worsening condition.

“That should do the trick.” I smile and gently pat her arm. She smiles back.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

She answers with both her first and last name and her personality emerges, a wit hidden a few minutes ago. Touch, perhaps it is more magical than I think. Or—it is simply essential to well-being.

“I like your coat,” she says. “Gray and blue go together well. Hey,” she says to the woman in a wheel chair next to her. “You grab her and I’ll get the coat.”

Her comrade looks surprised.

“Just kidding.”

I laugh, talk to the pair for a few minutes and return to my work. I can’t help but overhear their talk about another resident. “She’s not happy about anything,” one of the women says to the other. “Well, I don’t know what you can do to change her.”

Later the woman I suspect to be the object of  their conversation appears. She battles with the personnel, puts on a genuine show. I wonder what internal demons she fights, and feel even more blessed by the first two women.

The core spirit doesn’t go away because the scenery has been altered. It remains, whether that individual is fighting traffic on the Interstate or exchanging conversation in a nursing home.

Claire arrives, smiling. She lives positive attitude. Traffic was blocked for miles. She tells the story, but doesn’t complain about it.

I introduce my sister to my new nursing home friend.

“Your sister is prettier,” she says. Then when I tell her Claire is a lot younger than I am, she smiles and adds, “Just kidding.”

Claire and I have the opportunity to have time together. Dad’s feet threaten to fall off the chair. Many times. We move them back, as gently as we can. He never rouses enough to know we are there, at least while I am present. I leave before my sister does.

But first, before I face rush-hour traffic and who-knows-what-kind-of-chance-to-lose-perspective, one more kiss on Dad’s forehead, even if he doesn’t know I’ve placed it there. After all, I can’t understand the twists and turns of existence, but “until death it is all life.”

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