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I was going to go sit on the patio after dinner. I walk out and realize the chairs are still in the sun and the heat is oppressive. I come inside the family room and look out on the patio. No direct sun and yes, air conditioning.
It has been such a difficult 24 hours. When will a new normal feel normal. Life is of constant change. We expect that. Growing up, becoming educated, trying to find a purpose and a career, marriage, children. We step in to each of these stages with enthusiasm and to be honest, equal trepidation. But the flow seems so natural, comforting and nurturing as it gently pulls us along. I remember when my Great Grandmother Johnson died. We had gone to visit her. I had never known her in any other way but as a very frail, elderly lady- with twinkly blue eyes and gorgeous loving smile. She would reach out and hold on to each of her great grandchildren. Hugging us so firmly for such a small body.
Now I think back at my own Grandmother at that time. Perhaps in her late 40’s early 50’s. I thought she was older but not old old. My Mom was in her 30’s. She was the adult/parent class. I would watch my Grandmother gradually get older and frailer as my Great Grandmother had. But I was sheltered by youth and could not feel what this process was all about for either my grandmother nor my mother. I never thought the process would happen to my vibrant, beautiful Mother. As I grew older and she grew older we would laugh and chatter just like we always had. Full of ideas, dreams and enthusiasm. She took a fall on a snowy icy day and from then on we both entered that elderly, aging process. That was about 15 years ago. Mom had always been healthy, full of energy person. I could never let myself see that she was in the same process that I had seen my Great Grandmother and Grandmother go through. I am sure if I just kept thinking of her as she was she would remain as she was. And, to a large extent she was. Especially mentally. In each other eyes I was the silly young woman and she the adult woman inquisitively looking at life. We never stopped to think that our bodies, our bones would grow more fragile and often were filled with pain. After her fall Mom had to go to the Nursing facility for a time to aid in her healing. It was meant for healing, but it was a horrid place. Sadness and sorrow was everywhere. The staff presented some sunshine, but it did not seem real. She could never walk unaided again. Fears of falling were always on both of our minds. I am sure we went through every emotion fighting with AGE to stay away and leave us alone. The most effective process was simple denial. If you don’t think something is true then it can’t be, right? Mom went through her 80’s keeping inspired about our next adventure with my kids and our crafts. I the silly daughter and Mom the wise adult. But definitely not old- never.
And there we stayed for many, many years. My daughters would grow into young women and mothers. But Mom stayed in that same place that did not, could not age. Denial is strong. We were not about to let that thought get remotely close to us. It worked too. We became more careful of Moms body and movements. It was tethered to her ever young self. Full of enthusiasm and spirit. We knew we had to accept that the body may get weaker and need more care. But never did we let the old age thought in to our reality. Great Grandmother Johnson was old and even Nana became older, but not Mom. We kept that door firmly shut and locked!
We all know in our inner most selves we become, we grow and we return. Our molecules are programmed, imprinted with the process. We read it in literature and see it in movies and in our own realities. But until someone who is so close to our heart walks this journey do we really feel it. I could feel her anguish, anger, frustration as she drew closer. The denial door stayed locked. But as with all of life that firmly held door was just an illusion- as is all life. Our words and thoughts would deny its presence, but it still came and got closer and closer. I wanted to make it go away for both me and Mom. If I held her long enough, if we laughed enough, dreamed enough it would be ok. One of the last memories I had of Mom was the two of us sitting on the couch watching movies. Winter was all around us. Mom was always needing to be bundled up a bit more to keep away the cold. When I would sit next to her I would sit as I had when I was a girl next to her. My feet curled up on the sofa too. Mom would become as concerned about my feet getting cold as her own. She would take blankets we kept for her and wrap them tenderly around my feet. She would say I must always remember to keep my feet warm. I felt the tenderness of the young mother with her child, totally wrapped in love.
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