My Mom is 92, rail thin, mostly blind and growing increasingly deaf. Eighteen months ago she fell and broke her hip, and three months ago she fell again, this time landing on her wrist. But if you think that is enough to slow her down, you don’t know my Mom. When we visited her we found her to be sharp and surprising agile. She needs a walker now, but gets around surprisingly well. The residence home where she has lived for the past six years recently installed a new walkway around the garden, which allows her to get outside for a walk around to the lounge, or just sit on the patio and listen to the birds, and Mom takes advantage of this every nice day she gets.
She keeps track of all her visitors and the various caregivers that come to administer medication or treatment, and still manages her little flat herself, making her own breakfast and keeping things tidy. For lunch and dinner she will go down to the lounge and take her meals there, but she doesn’t like to spend too much time in the lounge as she finds most of the other residents a little “depressing” with not many others she can carry on a conversation with.
She readily admits that she finds her present life a little lonely, but she is doggedly chipper about her circumstances and still very much in control of what happens to her. She is really quite remarkable, with an amazingly positive attitude for all she has to face just to get through a day. She talks about her friend who just turned 105, and although she hopes she doesn’t have to live that long, Mom has the stamina and fortitude to endure it if she does.
I credit my Mom with some of the most precious lessons I have ever learned. She is the one who taught me the value of good literature, especially drama, and gave me a lifelong love of the written word. She is the one who opened my ears to the joy and inspiration of music, especially classical symphonic pieces and showtunes. I still cannot listen to her two favourite composers, Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninov without thinking of her. Yet even at 92 my Mom is still teaching me important lessons about how to face the limitations of your age and ravages of physical decline with courage and dignity. She has always been a hard person to love: imperious, demanding, and manipulative to an almost Machiavellian degree. But she is an easy person to admire, and there is much about her character that is admirable.
We ended our little visit with a walk to the high street and a little look around. I left my Mom wishing that circumstances were different and I could afford to visit more often; I’m sure that there is much that I could do to help her face her final days. But I live several thousand miles away, and these visits are all too rare. I am grateful for the little time I had with one of the most remarkable women in my life.