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I am alive and well and living with my mother

4 May

I am alive and well and living with my mother
The Dancing Queen

The Dancing Queen

My Mother is 98 years old. She is beautiful and cheerful. But things are changing for her as she becomes more frail and less able to participate in the activities that kept her young. For instance she loved to play golf, and she starred at croquet, but her balance is not what it once was and she hates walking as a sport. Dancing was her very favorite. But now her partners are all gone and she, herself fears that loss of balance that might lead to a fall. Plus her legs are weak now, and she lost her stamina somewhere along the way.

I am posting a photo taken about 20 or so years ago. She outdid them all at that time. Joyful and living in the moment, she inspired others.

Now I must struggle to keep those positive memories alive as she ages in front of my eyes. It is hard to watch. However this is a fairly new development. She never seemed to age at all until well after she turned 90. I welcome others stories and comments because this learning process creates all sorts of angst and sadness for me. Mother seems fine about it. It is for me that the sadness causes my interactions with her to seem to take forever, and lack the old sparkle.

As I am here with her anyway, I am keeping a journal which is private of course. However some public discussion of the topic of aging parents may help all of us.

It creeps up on us, the loss of friends, the sagging flesh, and lack of zest for life, and the feeling of having time in the future to do what one still has not done. For those in their 90s time and/or energy left long ago. Watching birds feeding at the birdfeeders intrigues and even fascinates older people. They can stare for hours at the birds and exclaim over the colors and shapes as if they had never seen a bird before. Childlike pleasure in daily activities like the splashing of water over a “caregiver” while taking a shower, or watching the same slide show over and over as if it had never been seen before makes smiling a norm. Nothing negative mars the constant stream of caregiving aid and comforts handed out every hour of the day or night.

Lack of privacy bothers some who must live with constant supervision, but my Mother enjoys the company of others. She grew up an only child whose mother died when she was only 8 months old. Her friends were her lifeline augmented by a whole bunch of cousins who lived literally next door. Her life has been crowded with “company” and she enjoys that even now.

The Primaries have come and mostly gone and Mother is blissfully unaware of the infighting. But one day she asked me while we watched the news, “What do you think of him?” She was pointing to Donald Trump who was answering reporters questions. I said “I am not sure what I think.” And she said “I think he is brave.” I thought that showed she watched with at least a modicum of recognition even though she still does not really recognize any other contender for the presidency. After Indiana, she may not need to. But she cares not at all who wins the presidency in 2016.

Life goes on for her as the birds feed hungrily at the several feeders, two hanging ones and one attached to the house.
Let’s count them Mother, shall we?


26 Apr

Easter is traditionally a time for our family to gather together and enjoy each other. Those wish to go to church do so early. The others find a spiritual quality in the closeness of our family. While the children and teenagers mostly just enjoy the food and the Easter candy and hunting for eggs among to the bushes and flowers in the yard.

This year the weather forecast worried me so much that I did not put up the necessary tables and chairs until Easter morning. One of my grandchildren spent the night at my house and she and I hid the eggs early in the morning as the day was simply gorgeous after all. My helpers came in soon after 9 and we happily began bringing chairs and tables from the garage up to the terrace because I planned to have them sit there for luncheon. Typical of this sort of celebration a short interval occurred that threw everyone off schedule for a few minutes. There was a blacksnake in the garage who scared the ladies who were bringing up chairs. I went down there with a broom and shooed the snake back into my basement because I did not want it in the yard. (well, the truth is, I did not want it in my basement either). Once it could not be seen everyone went back to their preparations without a care. It is interesting that humans are like that. They just don’t worry about what they cannot see even if it is something that could do them harm later. And of course it is sort of symbolic because there is always a figurative snake in the basement. And it is important that we not let that spoil our fun or frighten us into over reacting. (That was a “jab” at the TSA, my pet peeve)

The family arrived on schedule (early, even) and people continued to straggle in over time. 1:00pm was the scheduled time and they landed on either side of that. Everyone brought something and that made it run rather smoothly. All the ladies looked lovely even the very youngest at 7 and 8 years old respectively. The boys were colorful, the extra teenagers had lovely manners and looked bright eyed and healthy. I forgot to set up a bar, partly cause I was busy and partly because it is not a hard drinking family. Some of my sons and my ex husband set one up though with wine and Perrier and perhaps some other things, no one complained.

My oldest son grilled butterflied leg of lamb and my daughter in law, his wife brought ham biscuits. We had mashed potatos and gravy, new potatos with butter and parsley, asparagus with hollandaise sauce and salads of cold vegetables. We got all that food onto the tables and ate to our hearts content. The children ate in different areas, the grownups stuck closer to the plan sitting at the tables provided. There were 34 of us this Easter and I never heard a cross word or even a sarcastic remark. There was a palpable sense of friendliness extended to those who were just visitors and enveloping those who shared blood relationships or ties of marriage.

At the end of the day one of our guests said to me “I have never seen so much love in a room, in my life” We had been sitting in the big living room for some time after having come inside when it became too warm out in the sun. There were a lot of children and grown ups in that room and they were all engaged in earnest conversation.

She gave me a gift that I can never forget and will always cherish. That love and closeness is the reason I love to do big holidays like Christmas or Easter. I am already looking forward to the next one. Perhaps one of my daugthers in law will have us all to Thanksgiving. There is nothing to compare to family when it is enjoying itself and drawing strength and happiness from each other.

Are we green yet? What exactly does that mean?

6 Apr

I loved this article. Too bad it is anonymous. The author writes of a time during which I grew up. She points out that life itself was “green” at that time.

When a thunder storm was coming (we knew because we heard the thunder in the distance, not because of weather alerts on TV) I was sent inside to help shut all the windows. The windows were all wide open because we did not have air conditioning. We cooled our homes with breezes from the outdoors.

My parent slept outside in the yard in canvas hammocks, on very hot summer nights. Washington DC was hot and humid. They used to close down the government sometimes due to heat just as they might for a blizzard these days. It was fun for us children though, we played outside till dark. We tooks drinks of water from hose to cool off. We waited for the Good Humor man to arrive in his truck with it’s distinctive bell. That is how we got a treat. A frozen ice cream bar tasted so good on a hot evening. We did not have a freezer.

Many of my friends only had one telephone in the house. It was usually in the front hall on a telephone table or else hanging on the wall. In rural areas many people shared phone lines and had a specific ring on the “party line”.

There were NO super stores. Markets had more real food (unprocessed) than packaged. There were many different types of flour and the variety would surprise most modern women. In fact I can remember being taken to the poultry store which was more like outdoor sheds and pens. This was at a corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Van Ness Street in Washington DC where office buildings have been built years ago. At that time we went to buy a chicken or two and picked the ones we wanted out of a cage. The owners would kill them and pluck them and we would come pick them up later.

Working people often wore the same clothes day after day. They had a Sunday outfit that they only wore on Sunday. Men who were still “old fashioned” wore the same shirt but changed the collars. We were lucky because our mother loved clothes and made sure we had many. Some mothers made their daughters clothes, and all of them knew how to sew. (even mine who never made a dress in her life)

We had no television and I do not remember listening to the radio during the day time. We played games when were free of school or chores. These games usually were played in our imaginations more than with real “props”. We used imagination all the time. We had amazing power to be whatever we imagined. We had a lot of real fun. Not so much thrills, just steady fun generally, but we could take chances that made us conquer our fears too. We climbed trees. Does anyone do this any more? We swam in ponds or “swimming holes” in a stream. We caught little animals, we picked flowers and we collected things like unusual looking rocks or shells. We made forts or “bowers” and decorated them with things brought from the house or with imaginary things made from branches or leaves or other things we picked up and transformed with our minds.

Childhood for many of us was truly “childhood”. We did not hear violent words spoken. We saw very few violent images and only as a photograph, not in moving living color as children do now. We did not have constant fear mongering going on in our living rooms or kitchens via Television. It would have been unimaginable then. The things that have become normal faire would have been banned by censors. Sex remained a mystery except for mating of animals which we saw on occassion.

We went to church and Sunday School. Our parents were not fundamentalists. They just went to church because it was the thing one did on Sunday. There friends were all there and so were ours. All the stores were closed. You could not get food at a market or items of any kind on Sunday. There were a few drug stores where you could buy medicine. That was all. There really was such a thing as a day of rest. People did relax on Sunday and though there might be some lawn mowing or fancy cooking it was a quiet day. For us it meant a big Sunday Dinner soon after we came back from church. It was always the same. Fried chicken that really tasted like chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, petitte pois (baby green peas out of a can) or green beans (fresh) and often pop-overs with lots of butter. Coffee ice cream for desert with the offer of chocolate syrup if we wanted to add that.

My goodness, that sounds delicious. Memories of that time are fun because each one brings another along with it. I could write a book about this….but I won’t because I am actually a forward looking person. I love technology and all the advances we have made in so many ways. It is just sort of fun…and maybe really important to look back and see where we have come from and be aware of whom we have become.