I’ve got aging on the brain these days. It’s all I can think about, mine and my mother’s. I’ll soon be 49, and she’s 88. I’m obsessed with her well-being and her happiness. I don’t have children, so maybe this is sort of what being a parent feels like. I spend most of my waking hours, and I dare say a few of my sleeping ones, wondering what I can do to make sure she is happy, and safe, and cared for. She is in good shape, you know, “for someone her age.” She lives in a nice retirement community, has access to good medical care, and my two sisters live close by. I’m about 400 miles away and visit every six weeks or so. But it’s not enough, for me at least.
I find that I am ultra-sensitive to anything involving Mother. If you are too slow to respond to a need of hers at the doctor’s office. you’re likely to get my glare, which I’ve been told can be quite unsettling. If you express frustration in the time it takes Mother to decide what she’d like for lunch in a restaurant, I will be less likely to over tip. I love this woman with all my being, and I will do what I can to make sure she lives out the remainder of her days knowing she is adored.
When I visit her at the Happy Trails Retirement Utopia–not its real name–I see lots of things I’d rather not: elderly people eating alone in the cafe, hungry for nourishment that cannot be supplied by chicken salad; frail women climbing on to shuttle buses for the weekly grocery store run; and rows upon rows of walkers lined up outside the dining room because you’re not allowed to take them in with you. On my most recent visit, I had an encounter with a man who needed help on a computer. That’s all he needed, and yet he had to turn to me, a stranger, to get it. I wrote about it for Her Nashville, and you can read it here if you like.